Treatment of burns: dextran hydrogel
The relatively simple material proved to be effective in the treatment of third-degree burns. At the same time, the novelty stimulates the growth in place of the damaged area, not scar tissue, but full-fledged skin with all its structures.
The gel, created at Johns Hopkins University, does not contain any drugs or biological components. Its key component is the polymer dextran (branched polysaccharide).
Initially, the developers intended to supplement this material with stem cells and growth factors, reports Gizmag (Hydrogel helps grow new scar-free skin over third degree burns), however, they found that dextran alone perfectly stimulates skin growth at the burn site, acting as scaffolding.
All the details of the gel's work are not yet fully clear. But scientists say that inflammatory cells (neutrophils, macrophages) easily penetrate the gel, gradually destroying it and contributing to rapid vascularization (the development of blood vessels and capillaries). This is an important point, because of which normal skin appears at the site of the burn, and not a scar.
With the blood flow, the researchers suggest, bone marrow stem cells penetrate into the gel layer, which are naturally stimulated to turn into the necessary skin cells, blood vessels, and so on.
The composition of the new gel is simple: water, dextran and a fraction of polyethylene glycol. When treating the wound, scientists also applied a layer of protective material on top, which allowed the gel to stay in place as long as possible (photo from the website gizmag.com ).
The effect of the novelty was tested on mice. A week after applying a layer of gel to the site of a severe burn (the damaged skin was removed), a network of capillaries formed in the experimental animals.
Three weeks later, various epithelial structures appeared on the treated area, including hair follicles and sweat glands.
After five weeks, a full-fledged skin was formed with a morphology and thickness identical to a healthy cover. The new skin even grew hair. (For details, see the article in PNAS: Sun et al., Dextran hydrogel scaffolds enhance angiogenic responses and promote complete skin regeneration during burn wound healing.)
Diagram of the recovery process (PNAS illustration).
As a control method for treating burns, the authors used a material from cow collagen, says Popular Science (Wound-Treating Jelly Regenerates Fresh, Scar-Free Skin). It turned out that the new dextran gel works even better than the composition already used to help victims.
The creators of the hydrogel believe that it will be inexpensive in mass production and will be in demand in the treatment of burns and ulcers. But before the first tests of the novelty on humans, it will still take a lot of tests on animals to find out the subtleties in the action of the hydrogel and make sure there are no side effects.
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