Researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed a magneto-responsive hydrogel wound dressing that also contains two different regenerative cell types. The hydrogel is also embedded with magnetic particles that can be stimulated using an external magnetic field. The action of the magnetic field on the gel-encapsulated particles causes mechanical stresses within the gel to act on the cells, stimulating them to grow and enhancing their regenerative potential. The advanced dressing is intended to assist in healing diabetic wounds, which can be difficult to treat.
In diabetes, various issues can impair wound healing, leading to chronic wounds that are so difficult to treat that it is not uncommon for them to result in an amputation. Wound management and facilitating wound healing is particularly challenging in such patients. Part of the problem lies in the dressings that are used to cover such wounds.
“Conventional dressings do not play an active role in healing wounds,” said Andy Tay, one of the lead researchers that developed the new dressing. “They merely prevent the wound from worsening and patients need to be scheduled for dressing change every two or three days. It is a huge cost to our healthcare system and an inconvenience to patients.”
To address this, these researchers have created an advanced diabetic wound dressing that aims to actively encourage wound healing. The hydrogel dressing contains keratinocytes, a cell type involved in skin repair and fibroblasts, which are a key component of connective tissue. Under normal circumstances, skin cells experience mechanical deformation as our skin moves, which stimulates them. However, patients with a wound may have lower mobility, which limits the ability of the cells within the wound to heal it.
These researchers have introduced the same mechanical deformation process into their hydrogel dressing. It contains a multitude of tiny magnetic particles. When the dressing is exposed to a magnetic field, the particles act to create mechanical stress on the cells. “What our team has achieved is to identify a sweet spot by applying gentle mechanical stimulation,” said Tay. “The result is that the remaining skin cells get to ‘work-out’ to heal wounds, but not to the extent that it kills them.”
In tests so far, this magnetic/mechanical stimulation increased cell growth rates by 240% and doubled the amount of collagen that the cells produced. “The approach we are taking not only accelerates wound healing but also promotes overall wound health and reduces the chances of recurrence,” said Tay.
A bandage pre-loaded with magnetic hydrogel is placed on the wound, and an external device is used to accelerate the wound healing process.
Study in journal Advanced Materials: Mechano‐Activated Cell Therapy for Accelerated Diabetic Wound Healing
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