In today’s environment of advanced medical treatments where high success rates are achieved in amazingly delicate operations that until recently weren’t thought possible, a staggering 70 percent of people with severe burns still die from related infections. It is hoped that a revolutionary new wound dressing developed at Tel Aviv University (TAU) could cut that number dramatically.

The new wound dressing has been developed by Prof Meital Zilberman of TAU's Department of Biomedical Engineering. It uses engineered fibers that can be impregnated with drugs like antibiotics to speed up the healing process.

The dressing protects the wound until it is no longer needed, after which it melts away.

A study published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research – Applied Biomaterials demonstrates that, after only two days, this dressing can eradicate infection-causing bacteria.

"We've developed the first wound dressing that both releases antibiotic drugs and biodegrades in a controlled manner," says Prof Zilberman. "It solves current mechanical and physical limitations in wound-dressing techniques and gives physicians a new and more effective platform for treating burns and bedsores."

Prof Zilberman explains that while the concept is simple, the technology is not. Skin, she says, serves a number of vastly different purposes. "Wound dressings must maintain a certain level of moisture while acting as a shield. Like skin, they must also enable fluids from the wound to leave the infected tissue at a certain rate. It can't be too fast or too slow. If too fast, the wound will dry out and it won't heal properly. If too slow, there's a real risk of increased contamination."

The yet un-named dressing is designed to mimic skin and the way it protects the body. It combines positive mechanical and physical properties with what medical researchers call "a desired release profile of antibiotics."

Better than oral antibiotics, locally-applied antibiotics can target and kill harmful bacteria before they enter the body to cause further infection, sepsis, or death. "People who suffer from large burns don't usually die from the condition itself. The fatal culprits are the secondary bacterial infections that invade the body through these vulnerable burned areas," says Prof Zilberman.

Being a biodegradable product, the new TAU dressing not only inhibits bacterial growth but helps doctors avoid constant wound cleaning and redressing, allowing the body to do the work on its own. "When administered at the wound, a doctor can give relatively high but local doses of antibiotics, avoiding any toxicity issues that arise when the same amount of antibiotic passes through the body," she explains.

Early stages of clinical trials have begun on animal models. So far, her wound dressing has passed laboratory physical and mechanical tests in vitro and in bacterial inhibition.

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