Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, USA) have developed an injectable hydrogel to speed up the healing of skin wounds. The material forms an instant scaffold, allowing new tissue to latch on and grow within the cavities between linked gel spheres.
In current practice, doctors treating skin wounds aim to keep the area moist, as dry wounds are known to heal slower. This is accomplished through the use of topically applied hydrogel dressings or films to seal the wound and provide moisture. Alternatively, ointments can be used to fill the wound. However, neither of these materials provide an optimal scaffold to allow new tissue growth as they degrade, resulting in relatively slow and fragile new tissue growth.
“Achieving a biomaterial that promotes rapid regeneration while maintaining structural support has been a holy grail in the field of tissue engineering,” explained Di Carlo. “Our team has achieved this in an injectable form by combining tailored material chemistry and microfluidic fabrication of uniform spherical building blocks, each about the width of a human hair.”
“Our technology is beautifully simple, as it utilizes any available chemistry to generate tiny gels that can be assembled into a large unit, leaving behind a path for cellular infiltration,” added Segura.
The group's novel gel is a packed cluster of microscopic synthetic polymer spheres attached at their surfaces. This cluster creates a scaffold of microporous annealed particles, known as a MAP gel, that fills in the wound. New tissue is able to quickly grow into the voids between the microspheres and as the spheres degrade a matrix of new tissue is left at the original wound site. This allows new tissue growth to continue until wound healing is complete. Unlike other products, the MAP gel does not require additional growth factors in order to attract cells to the material, the geometry of the gel itself entices cell migration.
In their recent study, the team demonstrated the MAP gel to promote the growth of new cells and formation of networks of connected cells at previously unseen rates. During the first 48 hours of in vivo testing, the researchers observed significant tissue regeneration with increased five-day healing compared with materials currently in use.
The team hope that their material will be of use in a wide range of wound applications, from acute damage such as lacerations to more chronic applications such as diabetic ulcers and large-area burn wounds, in addition to trauma situations from the emergency room to the battlefield.
– Written by Hannah Wilson
Source: UCLA Press Release