A simple scrape or sore might not cause alarm for most people. But for diabetic patients, an untreated scratch can turn into an open wound that could potentially lead to a limb amputation or even death. A Northwestern University team has developed a new device, called a regenerative bandage, that quickly heals these painful, hard-to-treat sores without using drugs. During head-to-head tests, Northwestern’s bandage healed diabetic wounds 33 percent faster than one of the most popular bandages currently on the market.
“The novelty is that we identified a segment of a protein in skin that is important to wound healing, made the segment and incorporated it into an antioxidant molecule that self-aggregates at body temperature to create a scaffold that facilitates the body’s ability to regenerate tissue at the wound site,” said Northwestern’s Guillermo Ameer, who led the study. “With this newer approach, we’re not releasing drugs or outside factors to accelerate healing. And it works very well.”
Because the bandage leverages the body’s own healing power without releasing drugs or biologics, it faces fewer regulatory hurdles. This means patients could see it on the market much sooner.
The research was published today, June 11, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Although Ameer’s laboratory is specifically interested in diabetes applications, the bandage can be used to heal all types of open wounds.
An expert in biomaterials and regenerative engineering, Ameer is the Daniel Hale Williams Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering, professor of surgery in the Feinberg School of Medicine and director of Northwestern’s new Center for Advanced Regenerative Engineering (CARE).
The difference between a sore in a physically healthy person versus a diabetic patient? Diabetes can cause nerve damage that leads to numbness in the extremities. People with diabetes, therefore, might experience something as simple as a blister or small scratch that goes unnoticed and untreated because they cannot feel it to know it’s there. As high glucose levels also thicken capillary walls, blood circulation slows, making it more difficult for these wounds to heal. It’s a perfect storm for a small nick to become a limb-threatening—or life-threatening—wound.
June 11, 2018, Northwestern University
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