Quite cool, and being nature-based is a plus, but it remains to be seen how soon this research (knowing the corrupted U.S. medical system) will actually help people who need it.
Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed new wound dressings that dramatically accelerate healing and improve tissue regeneration. The two different types of nanofiber dressings, described in separate papers, use naturally-occurring proteins in plants and animals to promote healing and regrow tissue.
“Our fiber manufacturing system was developed specifically for the purpose of developing therapeutics for the wounds of war,” said Kit Parker, the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at SEAS and senior author of the research. “As a soldier in Afghanistan, I witnessed horrible wounds and, at times, the healing process for those wounds was a horror unto itself. This research is a years-long effort by many people on my team to help with these problems.”
The researchers made fibrous fibronectin using a fiber manufacturing platform called Rotary Jet-Spinning (RJS), developed by Parker’s Disease Biophysics Group. RJS works likes a cotton candy machine — a liquid polymer solution, in this case globular fibronectin dissolved in a solvent, is loaded into a reservoir and pushed out through a tiny opening by centrifugal force as the device spins. As the solution leaves the reservoir, the solvent evaporates and the polymers solidify. The centrifugal force unfolds the globular protein into small, thin fibers. These fibers — less than one micrometer in diameter — can be collected to form a large-scale wound dressing or bandage.
“The dressing integrates into the wound and acts like an instructive scaffold, recruiting different stem cells that are relevant for regeneration and assisting in the healing process before being absorbed into the body,” said Christophe Chantre, a graduate student in the Disease Biophysics Group and first author of the paper.
In in vivo testing, the researchers found that wounds treated with the fibronectin dressing showed 84 percent tissue restoration within 20 days, compared to 55.6 percent restoration in wounds treated with a standard dressing.
The researchers also demonstrated that wounds treated with the fibronectin dressing have close to normal epidermal thickness and dermal architecture, and even regrew hair follicles — often considered one of the biggest challenges in the field of wound healing.
“This is an important step forward,” said Chantre. “Most work done on skin regeneration to date involves complex treatments combining scaffolds, cells and even growth factors. Here we were able to demonstrate tissue repair and hair follicle regeneration using an entirely material approach. This has clear advantages for clinical translation.”
In a similar way to fibronectin fibers, the research team used RJS to spin ultra-thin soy fibers into wound dressings. In experiments, the soy and cellulose-based dressing demonstrated a 72-percent increase in healing over wounds with no dressing and a 21-percent increase in healing over wounds dressed without soy protein.
“These findings show the great promise of soy-based nanofibers for wound healing,” said Seungkuk Ahn, a graduate student in the Disease Biophysics Group and first author of the paper. “These one-step, cost-effective scaffolds could be the next generation of regenerative dressings and push the envelope of nanofiber technology and the wound care market.”
At the end of the article it says that Harvard has “protected the intellectual property relating to these projects and is exploring commercialization opportunities,” meaning that it shouldn’t be much of a surprise if the consumer products based on this research take too long to go to market and/or are too expensive.