Bandages are meant to cover the wounds not to heal them actively. There are only a few experimental exceptions that perform the healing part. However, the latest heat-activated active adhesive dressing (AAD) is different and takes out the need for antibiotics while mimicking embryonic skin.
Embryos, during a particular time in their development, do not receive scars when the skin wounds heal. This happens because the skin cells around such wound create fibers that are comprised of actin – a protein. These fibers contract and heal the wound by pulling the edges together, thus not allowing any scar tissue to get formed.
While working in collaboration with colleagues at Montreal’s McGill University, a team of scientists at Harvard University decided to replicate this process in a bandage. The outcome of this endeavor was the active adhesive dressing. The active adhesive dressing is made using adhesive alginate (algae-derived) hydrogel, which also contains silver nanoparticles and a thermo-responsive polymer known as PNIPAm. This polymer not only repels water but also shrinks at a temperature of 32 ºC.
When the active adhesive dressing is applied to a wound, the hydrogel makes a strong bond with the skin. Furthermore, the body temperature heats the PNIPAm, thus allowing the gel to contract. The adhered underlying skin will also get contracted along with the gel and will effectively and quickly close the wound up. Any potential infection-causing bacteria is taken care of by the silver nanoparticles.
The extent to which the active adhesive dressing is capable of pulling the skin together can be adjusted by changing the amount of PNIPAm in the gel. This kind of control will prove beneficial because the skin on joints requires more flexibility while healing as opposed to the skin on flat parts of the body. Dr Benjamin Freedman from Harvard said, ‘We are continuing this research with studies to learn more about how the mechanical cues exerted by AAD impact the biological process of wound healing, and how AAD performs across a range of different temperatures, as body temperature can vary at different locations. We hope to pursue additional preclinical studies to demonstrate AAD’s potential as a medical product, and then work toward commercialization.’
A paper on the research has been published in the journal Science Advances.