A new kind of wound dressing can be applied and then removed quickly, all without damaging the surrounding tissue.

The market for wound care dressings already features quite a few innovative materials. For instance, collagen encourages several key pillars of wound healing, including angiogenesis and debridement. Hydrocolloid dressings, meanwhile, are aimed at preventing infection and maintaining proper moisture levels.

But in recent years, there have been a number of important new breakthroughs. These include wound dressings made from Atlantic cod, which are geared toward slow-healing wounds, and dressings made from a self-repairing plastic. More recently, scientists from Boston University have developed a new kind of wound dressing designed to better treat burn patients.

A much gentler approach

As part of a new study in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, a team of scientists from Boston University have created a new burn dressing that can be wiped off painlessly. The dressing was made by combining a polyethylene glycol cross-linker and a lysine-based dendron, resulting in a specialized form of hydrogel.

Over the last several years, hydrogels have become increasingly popular in wound care, as the material aids in debridement and epidermal repair. There have been a number of other hyrdogel-based dressings released over the last decade or so, but not all of them have been geared toward easy removal or the unique needs of burn patients. So, rather than being cut or removed via mechanical debridement, this hydrogel can be applied to patients’ burns and then washed off as needed, at which point the wound dressings dissolve away from the remaining skin. It takes more than water, though, and the dressings must be dissolved with a liquid form of the compound cysteine methyl ester.

Not only are the dressings easy to remove, but they help maintain moisture within the wound site, absorb excess fluids and can prevent bacterial infection. Thus far, the Boston team have used the dressings on laboratory rats with severe second degree burns. The hydrogel dressings worked wonders on the rats’ wounds, and the next step is to move on to additional safety trials before eventually using the dressings on human subjects.

A great impact

In an interview with The Royal Society of Chemistry, lead author Mark Grinstaff said that the dissolvable wound dressings could be on the market sometime before 2020.  And the sooner the better. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that there were 486,000 burns requiring medical treatment in 2016. Most cases are the result of direct contact with fire, followed by scalding and electrical accidents.

Also speaking with the RSC, healthcare materials expert Giuseppe Tronci explained that if the dressings come to market, they would be extremely valuable. They might be applicable in a variety of clinical contexts.

For all your specialized wound care products, turn to Advanced Tissue. We deliver to both homes and long-term care facilities.