Here's a nifty, albeit evolving, piece of science. This week, scientists at Harvard and elsewhere said they have developed a novel dressing that can quickly heal all types of wounds. The gel-based, heat-activated design was inspired by the Wolverine-like skin that we have in the womb.
It is common knowledge that our fetal skin can fully recover from injury without leaving scars. This happens at least in part because embryonic cells produce protein fibers that quickly and tightly close and contract the skin surrounding the wound. As adults, our skin cells can do this to a degree, but not to the same extent.
The research team, which also includes scientists from McGill University in Canada, claims to have found a way to lure our skin back into its younger self, wholesome. The work of the team presenting their design was published in Science Advances this week.
According to the study, the so-called active adhesive dressings consist of "thermoresponsive tough adhesive hydrogels that combine highly ductility, toughness, tissue adhesion, and antimicrobial function. "The advanced adhesive material, which is more sticky than conventional dressings, is activated when exposed to body heat. They also contain silver nanoparticles with antimicrobial properties to further accelerate healing.
Both the pig and mouse skin have been shown to close wounds much faster than conventional dressings, while shortening healing time. They also appeared to cause no inflammation or immune response, indicating their safety for living tissue. And in a team-created computer model, the dressings on the human skin were projected to have a similar wound-closure effect to that on mice, suggesting they are just as effective.
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The team expects these bandages not only to be used for nasty cuts and scratches, but also to treat difficult-to-treat skin lesions such as ulcers for other medical purposes.
"This technology can be used not only for skin injuries, but also for chronic wounds such as diabetic ulcers and pressure sores, drug delivery and as part of Soft Robotics-based therapies. The author of the study, David Mooney, bioengineer at John A. Paulson's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard, said in a press release from the university.
Successful animal experiments and computer simulations are of course no guarantee that these dressings work for humans. Therefore, human trials are undoubtedly necessary. The authors plan to investigate whether their invention works under a variety of medical scenarios and conditions, such as colder weather, which can affect skin temperature.