New hydrogel aids skin regeneration to improve wound healing
Healing chronic skin wounds canbe difficult, particularly when they span large areas, or whenhealing is complicated by health problems such as a lack ofmobility. A team of researchers from the University of California,Los Angeles (UCLA) has worked to improve the process, creating a moreeffective method of regeneration through use of a new material thatcreates a porous scaffold, allowing wounds to heal more effectively.
When doctors are presented with a skinwound that resists repair, they often turn to water-based dressingsknown as hydrogels. These are great at keeping the wound protectedand hydrated, but could do more in the way of facilitating skinregeneration.
To improve things, the UCLA team, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), developed a new hydrogel that includes microporous annealed particles(MAPs), which are tiny synthetic spheres designed to grip onto oneanother to form a connected yet permeable structure. When applied to awound, the MAPs create a porous scaffolding that can be colonized bynew cells, allowing skin and blood vessels to start forming.
The use of scaffolding isn't entirelynew – it's something that researchers have tried out before – butthe UCLA team's method is superior in its ability to take on theshape of the wound, with the MAPs moving into the wound beforebinding together to form the scaffolding.
In order for the material to be effective for woundhealing, it needs to be able to degrade in a timely manner – not sofast that it would fail to provide sufficient support for the newtissue, but not so slowly that it causes scarring. The newly-developed hydrogel is particularly effective in this regard, with theability to have its chemical and physical properties tuned to providecustomized degradation rates for specific wound beds.
The researchers didn't just dotheoretical work on the material, but also performed extensivetesting to demonstrate its effectiveness. They first showed that thematerial was able to form a porous scaffold in just two days whenused with human stem cells, with skin growth observed over one week.
The team then moved on to test the MAPhydrogel on the wounds of laboratory mice, finding that over a five-day period, 40 percent of wounds closed. By contrast, not a singlewound healed on a second group of mice, who were treated with anon-porous hydrogel. Similar results were observed in a seven-daytest, with 40 percent of the MAP treated wounds closing, while 20precent of those with no hydrogel closed, and none with a non-porousgel healed.
"This novel material provides all thenecessary physical properties for strong support, and degradesgradually as new skin is formed," says NIH program directorRosemarie Hunziker. "It is elegant in both is complexity andsimplicity, and offers real hope to patients struggling withdebilitating wounds."
The findings of the study werepublished in the journal Nature Materials. You can check out the video below for an animation of how the new hydrogel works.