Researchers at Lithuania’s Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) are developing a new sponge-like regenerative dressing to treat deep and chronic wounds.
The cost of treating wounds can be substantial, with one study claiming it makes up around 2-4 per cent of total EU healthcare expenditure. Treating just one chronic wound can cost up to €10k, and it is estimated that up to 1.5 per cent of EU population is affected by at least a single wound of this type.
Tissue regeneration is vital for these deep wounds to heal. To address the issue, the Kaunas team is working on sponge-type dressings based on hyaluronic acid, which is a well-researched polymer that stimulates tissue regeneration. Previously, it has been used in ophthalmology, bone regeneration and for other medical and cosmetic purposes.
“Hyaluronic acid is a natural polymer found in living organisms, which has anti-inflammatory properties and stimulates tissue regeneration,” said Odeta Baniukaitienė, researcher at KTU Faculty of Chemical Technology.
“We are used to commercial hyaluronic acid based products, which usually are thick liquids or gels. Although quickly absorbed by the organism, in this form the polymer doesn’t have the structure needed for tissue building.”
The dressings created at KTU have net structure, which is essential in developing wound dressings for tissue regeneration. Although biopolymers are often chosen for this purpose as they are compatible with biological systems, sponge-like dressings are predominantly being made from alginate or collagen.
“We use freeze-drying technique to render hyaluronic acid sponge-like structure. The dressing fills in the wound, and is serving as a structure for cells to stick on; the active compounds, which have antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory or tissue regeneration stimulating qualities are in such a way fixed and carried through”, says Baniukaitienė.
Collaborating with the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, the scientists are testing the prototype in vitro with different cells. According to the team, the proof of concept stage research could take several more years.