The work of Northwestern University scientists, a new bandage features a special protein that greatly improves wound healing.
Diabetic foot ulcers are not only painful, but they’re a potentially life-altering and even fatal medical condition. Of the 29.1 million Americans who live with diabetes (per figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 15 percent will eventually develop ulcers, according to a study in the journal Diabetes Care. Not only that, but as data from the American Diabetes Association revealed, 84 percent of all lower limb amputations are preceded by ulcers.
While there are already several effective wound care products available, doctors are continually exploring new ways to better combat this condition. The latest such innovation comes courtesy of a team of biomedical engineers and researchers from Northwestern University.
A better bandage
In a study published in the Journal of Controlled Release, the Northwestern scientists unveiled a revolutionary product for ulcers called the regenerative bandage. The bandage is based on previous efforts from lead author Guillermo A. Ameer and his laboratory staff at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. A few years ago, Ameer and his team created a thermo-responsive material that could be used to deliver proteins and cells directly into a wound.
For the regenerative bandage, Ameer used the same material and a new kind of protein, one that features stem cells to bolster the body’s natural wound healing rate. The team had originally tried to apply the protein all at once, but found that it had almost no effect. When used with the thermo-responsive material, which slowly released the protein in several extended spurts, wounds healed much faster in the lab setting.
Not only that, but the bandage and material goes from liquid to solid and can conform to skin and protect wounds without the need for frequent dressing changes. It’s these changes, as Ameer explained in an accompanying press release, that damage tissue and prevent effective wound care.
To further test the effectiveness of the regenerative bandage, Ameer joined forces with Hao F. Zhang, an associate professor of biomedical engineering. Together, they were able to develop images of diabetic wounds that had been treated with the bandage and another set of wounds that had not. In those wounds treated with the bandage, blood flow had improved significantly.
Not only are diabetic patients more likely to experience wounds like ulcers, but research has shown that these people have a diminished wound healing capability. There are several possible explanations, including the loss of essential electrical currents within the body.
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