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Harvard’s new skin-style bandages heal wounds at an accelerated rate

Luke Dormehl
Researchers at Harvard University have developed two novel nanofiber bandages which are able to rapidly accelerate the healing process, as well as improve tissue regeneration. Here's how.

A team of researchers at Harvard University have developed two novel nanofiber wound dressings which are able to rapidly accelerate the healing process, as well as improve tissue regeneration. Described in separate academic papers, the new bandages use proteins which are found naturally occurring in plants and animals to promote enhanced healing.

“In these papers, two novel fibrous materials were developed and specifically tailored to applications in the field of regenerative medicine,” Christophe Chantre, a graduate student at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Disease Biophysics Group, told Digital Trends. “One was produced from soy protein that contains several human peptide analogs, critical in regulating wound closure, while the other was manufactured from a protein called fibronectin that is believed to play a crucial role in regeneration.”

Although both of these materials have been studied in the past, this is the first example of them being used to produce nanofibrous scaffolds, which mimic the structure of human skin. In tests, the researchers found that the soy and cellulose-based dressing resulted in a 72 percent increase in healing wounds compared with no dressing at all, and a 21 percent increase in healing wounds compared with non-soy protein dressings. Meanwhile, the fibronectin dressing resulted in 84 percent tissue restoration within 20 days, compared to just 55.6 percent restoration using a standard dressing.

“Both wound dressings had their respective advantages,” Chantre continued. “The fibronectin dressings enabled considerable tissue restoration, and even promoted regeneration of hair follicles. By contrast, the cellulose soy dressing demonstrated slightly reduced wound healing performance, but was significantly cheaper to produce.”

At present, the researchers are working on the second generation of its wound dressings, with improved fabrication and regenerative performance. “Our preliminary results in mice are encouraging and should provide sufficient validation for moving towards more relevant preclinical models and hopefully first-in-human trails within the next couple of years,” Chantre said. The technology has been protected by the Harvard Office of Technology Development, which is exploring possible opportunities for commercialization.

One of the papers was recently published in the journal Biomaterials, while the other was published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.