There are bandages that turn green in the presence of infection. Then, there are special dressings that can plug gunshot wounds in under 15 seconds. As part of a new research, recently published in the Journal of Controlled Release, scientists from Northwestern University have developed an innovative bandage that attracts stem cells, in order to facilitate wound healing in diabetics.
Across the world, as many as 45 million people suffer from this serious health condition, as reported by the International Diabetes Federation. What is more alarming, perhaps, is the fact that diabetes kills one patient every six seconds or so. According to researchers, the disease is known to cause damage to the person’s nervous system, often leading to the loss of feeling in his/her feet.
Often times, a cut on the foot or even a blister goes unnoticed and remain untreated, until it is too late. Furthermore, the continual high glucose levels are usually associated with the thickening of the walls of blood capillaries, resulting in slower blood circulation. When that happens, the infection-fighting antibodies present in the individual’s blood don’t always reach the wound site as swiftly as in case of healthy people.
In diabetes patients, therefore, the tiniest of injuries can prove to be life-threatening. Although designed to facilitate wound healing and skin regeneration, the hydrogel-based dressing, the team points out, has been shown to enhance the risk of cancer. To solve this problem, the scientists have come up with a new type of wound-healing bandage that is efficient, in addition to being completely safe.
Made from a combination of the protein SDF-1 and polyethylene glycol, a kind of plastic widely used in the medical world, the bandage is capable of accelerating the healing process by attracting the person’s stem cells. According to the researchers, it is actually the protein that is responsible for drawing in the stem cells, which in turn create new blood vessels, thus enhancing circulation.
The ingenious dressing is also sensitive to heat, meaning that it turns from liquid to solid gel-like form when exposed to the slightly higher body temperature. When applied to a the site of an injury, it slowly releases the SDF-1 protein, thereby aiding in the wound healing process. Once its job is done, the bandage is cooled using a special chilled saline solution, causing it to turn liquid again.
Unlike regular varieties, the removal of the newly-created bandage is incredibly easy and painless. During laboratory testing, the stem cell-attracting dressing was found to be significantly more efficient than conventional techniques, while also improving blood flow to wound site. Speaking about the breakthrough, Guillermo Ameer, a professor at the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and one of the study’s member, said:
The repair process is impaired in people with diabetes. By mimicking the repair process that happens in a healthy body, we have demonstrated a promising new way to treat diabetic wounds.
Source: Northwestern University