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New injectable hydrogel may help wounds heal faster

A novel injectable hydrogel that is inexpensive and easy to manufacture may help cutaneous wounds heal faster, especially for patients with compromised health issues, according to a study published in ACS Applied Bio Materials (2018; 1(5):1430–1439).

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire developed the medication to improve hydrogel technologies—current hydrogels are not sufficiently porous and do not allow neighbouring cells to easily access the wound to help it heal.

The injectable hydrogel may help improve treatment of irregularly-shaped wounds such as diabetic ulcers by forming a temporary structure that can keep the wound stable while white cells rejuvenate the affected areas.

“While valuable for helping patients, current hydrogels have limited clinical efficacy,” said study co-author Kyung Jae Jeong, PhD, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., in a press release. “We discovered a simple solution to make the hydrogels more porous and therefore help to speed up the healing.”

Above is an electron microscope image of the porous hydrogel.

Photo by the University of New Hampshire.

Researchers were able to create a macroporous hydrogel by combining readily available gelatin microgels—hydrogels that are a few hundred microns in diameter—with an inexpensive enzyme called microbial transglutaminase (mTG).

According to their report, gelatin was used because it is a natural protein derived from collagen that is found in the human body. Combining the small microgels with mTG helped ensure that the hydrogel featured large enough pores that can allow neighbouring cells passage into the wound for repair.

Furthermore, this new injectable formulation allows for the slow release of protein medications to aid wound healing, such as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF). In human subjects, conventional non-porous hydrogels were also compared with the new macroporous hydrogels. Investigators found a significant increase in the migration of human dermal fibroblasts (hDFs) inside the hydrogel, which is the hallmark of wound healing.

Along with diabetic ulcers, the macroporous hydrogel may potentially improve other forms of healing on the skin, cornea, and internal organs during surgery. It may even have military implications, according to the press release.

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