Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a thermoresponsive hydrogel bandage. The hydrogel is liquid at room temperature, but changes into a semi-solid gel at body temperature when in contact with a wound, meaning it conforms to the wound shape. The gel contains an amino acid sequence that stimulates the body’s own healing process. The researchers hope that the advanced dressing could help to heal difficult-to-treat wounds in patients with diabetes.
Patients with diabetes can suffer from stubborn wounds and ulcers that can have serious consequences, including amputation and even death. There is a need for new wound-healing treatments, and this research team set out to develop a new type of wound dressing that would stimulate innate healing processes.
The researchers identified that a 12 amino acid segment of the protein laminin, which is found in many human tissues including skin, is critical in the wound healing process. “This particular sequence caught our eye because it activates cellular receptors to get cells to adhere, migrate and proliferate,” said Guillermo Ameer, a researcher involved in the study. “Then we cut up the sequence to find the minimum size that we needed for it to work.”
The small laminin fragment is easily synthesized in the laboratory. By incorporating the amino acid sequence into a thermoresponsive hydrogel, the researchers created a wound healing dressing that can conform to the irregular shape of a wound. “Wounds have irregular shapes and depths. Our liquid can fill any shape and then stay in place,” said Ameer. “Other bandages are mostly based on collagen films or sponges that can move around and shift away from the wound site.”
Another advantage of the new dressing is that it can be easily rinsed off using a saline solution. This is in contrast with conventional dressings that can sometimes tear healing tissues when they are removed. In preclinical tests, the hydrogel dressing helped to heal diabetic wounds up to 33% faster than a market-leading bandage. The research team is currently planning larger pre-clinical tests.
Top image: Stained epidermis cells cultured on the A5G81 peptide.