Students at Vanderbilt have developed a biodegradable foam for wounds.

Wound dressing options have advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, and bright young minds continue to push the envelope in this realm of bio-ingenuity. One of the most recent deep wound healing products has been in development at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University. A team of engineering graduate students, under the helm of biomolecular engineering professor Scott Guelcher, has been at the forefront of developing this new product.

The product

The product was the brain child of graduate student Drew Harmata, who came up with the idea after working with the Life Science Tennessee Academic Alliance.

“I began looking at the various projects in our lab to see if any would make a viable product and start-up foundation, and identified PoraDerm, even though my Ph.D. thesis was not focused on skin regeneration,” Harmata told science writer David Salisbury in a 2013 interview for Vanderbilt University.

PoraDerm, as the product is being patented, is a biodegradable foam that is particularly helpful in healing deep wounds, including chronic diabetic foot ulcers. These wounds are notoriously hard to heal due to the constant pressure and use that most feet have to undergo on a daily basis.

The foam is made from a porous polyurethane that is able to take on the shape of the wound cavity it fills, evenly covering the wound bed in one fell swoop. According to a Vanderbilt College of Engineering article, PoraDerm creates a “scaffold” that the body’s natural skin can use to repair and regenerate against. The body’s cells will bind to the foam, and since it is biodegradable, the foam leaves no residue and allows the ulcer to completely heal.

Future plans

The inventive design of PoraDerm has already won accolades, which demonstrates great promise for the foam’s future commercial availability. The design, which has been in the works for several years, won the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) E-Team Program award for the first stage of design in 2012 as well as the second stage award. The team of engineering responsible for the design will submit the design in April 2014 for the third stage of the E-Team program, where they will be eligible for an investor grant of up to $50,000.

Even with funding, the Vanderbilt team will have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before they are allowed to put PoraDerm through clinical trials. The engineering students have decided that the commercial version of the PoraDerm will be sold under PEURegen Inc., a group they have formed for their market venture for the product.