Engineers from a university in Vigo manufacture dressings with glass nanofibers to heal chronic wounds
Engineers from the School of Industrial Engineering of the University of Vigo use their own and exclusive technology to manufacture sanitary dressings with bioactive glass nanofibers capable of healing chronic wounds. The material obtained by this process, whose appearance and texture are similar to those of cotton, releases the drugs gradually and also degrades itself as the lesion heals. The group LaserON (Industrial Applications of Lasers) leads this project in which doctors from the Surgery and Dermatology services of the Álvaro Cunqueiro Hospital, as well as experts from Imperial College London and the University of Minho also collaborate.
They use their own technology and collaborate with the Cunqueiro, Imperial College and the University of Minho
The Laser Spinning methodology has been developed and patented by Vigo researchers and is the only one capable of mass production of these nanofibers avoiding the drawbacks of other techniques, among them, the generation of toxic compounds.
In addition, the nanowires obtained surpass the performance of other similar materials that are currently manufactured in USA, as they could see in situ LaserON engineers.
“These dressings incorporate compounds that help to regenerate the tissue and heal the wound and, in parallel, they also fight bacteria. One of their comparative advantages is that glass nanofibers have a large surface to incorporate and release the bactericidal agents that are necessary in each case. In addition, the continuous change of bandages is avoided, since they deteriorate as the injury heals ”, highlights the professor and director of the group, Juan Pou.
Bioactive dressings like those to be made by UVigo experts combine control of the wound environment with a drug delivery system to prevent bacterial colonization and "activate key cellular responses" in the healing process.
Chronic wounds are those that take more than 12 months to heal and affect 1-3% of the world's population. A percentage that will increase in the coming years due to aging. Therefore, having a new type of bioactive dressings will help reduce healing time and costs for national health systems - the treatment of these injuries currently represents around 3% of total costs.
The project is financed with 121,000 euros until 2023 by the national R&D plan and its coordinator is the LaserON researcher Antonio Riveiro Rodríguez. On behalf of the Cunqueiro Hospital, the head of the Plastic and Regenerative Surgery service, Bruno Gago, and Ignacio García Doval, of the Dermatology service, collaborate.
“In principle, we will study the possibilities of applying these dressings to long-lasting wounds and ulcers such as those suffered by people with diabetes or bedridden patients. That is the main idea, but this material could also be introduced in some surgeries ”, advances Pou.
The Vigo researchers have already begun the preparation of the nanofibers. They will start from bioactive glass compositions "with proven biomedical capacity" and will incorporate iodine in their composition to act as an antiseptic, a hitherto "unprecedented" approach.
Afterwards, physico-chemical characterization analyzes and tests on animal models will be carried out to validate and certify its biocompatibility, its antibacterial capacity and the effectiveness of its use as a dressing.
"In the three years of the project we will not have time to start it, but we will probably also begin to design a clinical trial with patients" Juan Pou - Professor and director of the group
The team of experts completes it Julian Jones, whose group at Imperial College is the “father” of bioactive glasses and has years of collaboration with his colleagues from Vigo. And Ricardo Pires, an expert in tissue engineering at the I3Bs Research Institute of the University of Minho, also participates.
“A biomedical company has also shown interest. We have all the wickers so that the application can be fast ”, he confides.
The collaboration of the UVigo and the Cunqueiro physicians arises from the synergies derived from the launch in the 2018/19 academic year of the Biomedical Engineering degree, the only public in the entire northwest of the peninsula and whose coordinator is Pou himself.
“The receptivity of the doctors from day one has been very good and the relationship is spectacular. We also have other projects underway and we are very satisfied. In general, the understanding of the researchers from the University and El Cunqueiro is unbeatable and we are very satisfied. They were already working on issues related to engineering in medicine, but now it is reflected in some degree studies, in a master's degree that is pending verification and also in research with several theses. From my point of view, this has only just begun ”, he concludes.