Problem: According to the US Center for Disease Control, an approximate 6 million people in the US suffer from chronic wounds caused by diabetes, circulatory problems and other conditions. An additional 1 million people have acute wounds including burns, lacerations and traumatic wounds each year.
Current Solution: Traditionally, wound dressing materials like gauze are used to passively protect the wound. However, recent progress in tissue engineering has revolutionized wound dressing materials. Today’s wound dressing materials like semi-permeable foams/films, hydrogels and hydrocolloids are bioactive, i.e. they can actively participate in the process of wound healing. But these materials do not provide a proper substrate for cells to adhere and proliferate.
Electrospinning: Electrospinning is a widely used technique to produce continuous synthetic nanofibers. When a droplet of polymer is introduced to a high voltage electric field, the electrostatic repulsion cancels the polymer surface tension, resulting in discharge of positively charged polymer solution towards the grounded collector. By optimizing polymer composition and operating variables, we have developed a novel handheld low voltage electrospinnig device which can deposit nanofiber scaffolds directly on the site of injury. This would result in a superior wound dressing material which would accelerate healing in an effective and an efficient manner. As the proposed functionality of this device mirrors that of one of the medical gadgets from the series ‘Star Trek’, we are calling this device a Dermal Regenerator.
Design: The basic design of this handheld device is outlined in the figure. The base polymer used is Polyethylene oxide (PEO) enriched with antibiotics and growth factors. The device has a replaceable pressurized polymer canister which is attached to a set of needles in the dispenser. The device runs on a 12 V battery. The dispenser needles are connected to the positive end, while the ground electrode (shown in the figure) is placed directly on the skin. At the site of injury, the dermal regenerator will deposit layers of PEO nanofibers which will mimic the extracellular matrix and promote cell migration and proliferation. This would ultimately accelerate wound healing and tissue regeneration. The key properties of these nanofibers are:
• Biocompatibility: Fibers are compatible with different cell types, blood and other tissue fluids
• Absorbability: Nearly 10 fold increase in absorbability (absorb wound exudates)
• Semi-permeability: Facilitate gas exchange for improved cellular respiration
• Conformability: Scaffold confirmation to the shape of wound
• Personalization: Enables easy addition of growth factor and other supplements for people affected with diabetics, hemophilic, etc.
Current Status: At present, we have completed the design and currently in process of building a bench top prototype. The estimated cost to complete R&D is around $200,000.
Commercialization: The first generation of dermal regenerators will be marketed in two components – a multi-use nanofiber dispenser and a limited use replaceable pressurized polymer cartridge (1 ml volume, enough to cover 50cm2 area). At the current development stage, the price of the device is projected to be at $50 with the replaceable polymer cartridge projected at $15 each (6 month life).