Most people think of turmeric as a kitchen spice, or perhaps as a health supplement that's taken orally. Now, however, scientists have incorporated curcumin – a compound extracted from turmeric – into a porous foam that's designed to heal skin wounds with a minimum of scarring.
Being developed by a team at Switzerland's Empa research institute, the "Scaravoid" foam is composed mainly of a biocompatible, biodegradable polymer with a three-dimensional scaffolding-like microstructure.
When a slim piece of the material is inserted into a wound, the body's adjacent cells naturally migrate into it and proceed to reproduce, gradually replacing the polymer with natural biological tissue (shown in brown against the white foam, in the image below).
Additionally, the polymer also contains the earlier-mentioned curcumin. Among other things, that compound is known to reduce both inflammation and scarring.
Indeed, when the scientists added curcumin to cell cultures in the lab, it was found that production of biomarkers typically associated with scarring was reduced significantly. In the foam, the curcumin is gradually released into the wound as the polymer biodegrades. It then "controls the behavior and function of the cells that migrate into the scaffold and thus supports the natural balance of wound healing."
Plans call for Scaravoid to be manufactured in the form of flat membranes, which doctors would cut to the size and shape of the wound being treated. It may be particularly well-suited to wounds that are slow to heal, such as diabetic ulcers, burns, or cuts on flexing body parts like the elbow.
It is hoped that clinical trials will commence soon.
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