The team has developed a special emergency care spray from the enzyme chitosan, found in crab shells.

These days, wound care dressings are made of an increasingly interesting selection of materials. That includes chitosan, which is a special mineral found within crab shells. The reason for using chitosan lies in its sturdiness, as the resulting bandages and dressings are especially strong and durable. There are already several effective bandage types made using chitosan, including a unique biofoam pad designed by a team from Penn State.

Now, though, a team from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has announced an exciting new use for chitosan that could help with the treatment of trauma wounds.

A major development

As part of a new study in the journal Tissue Engineering, the Wyss team has unveiled a modified version of a chitosan bioplastic to help heal wounds quickly and more efficiently. This form of chitosan is said to have a number of different applications, including holding medical devices in place, preventing infection during emergency care and, perhaps most promising of all, repairing multiple types of tissue tears.

To create this chitosan bioplastic, which is being called Shrilk, lead authors Dr. Donald Ingber and Dr. Javier Fernandez worked with an enzyme called transglutaminase. According to the Mayo Clinic, transglutaminase is used by the human body for two main purposes: creating and strengthening blood clots and maintaining skin durability. They chose the enzyme because, according to the pair, they needed something that would allow chitosan to cling to several different materials, including tissue and plastics.

Ingber and Fernandez combined both transglutaminase and chitosan together, and found they were able to repair larger holes in several experimental models. The mixture, which was later turned into a spray, is said to be non-toxic and biodegradable and worked on injury types from punctures to serious burns. The scientists, who were among the first to develop chitosan, had tried out others forms, like a series of sheets, only to find that liquid-based forms are much more effective.

The duo is also at work on a foam version to treat even more traumatic injuries, like those sustained on the battlefield, or as part of a surgical intervention regimen. And the experimentation will continue as Ingber and Fernandez continue to perfect Shrilk before it’s released to the global wound care market. In an accompanying press release, the researchers said that Shrilk might have other uses beyond improving wound healing, including some form of manufacturing.

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