The reduced rate of healing for chronic wounds affects the quality of life of the patients and leads to significant socio-economic burden. These wounds do not heal in a timely and methodical manner and can lead to ulcers and other long-term effects. Repeated trauma, lack of blood flow and underlying diseases such as diabetes lead to further complications. For example, diabetic foot ulcers take up to twelve months to heal. The chronic nature of the wound and the weakened tissues impact wound recurrence and recovery. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, 20% of moderate to severe diabetic foot infections lead to amputation and the mortality after diabetes-related amputation exceeds 70% at 5 years for all patients. The high cost of wound care among patients with diabetes amounts to one-third of the $176 billion spent on diabetes treatment annually in the United States. The advanced wound dressing technologies to address these needs are expected to reach $10,940 million in 2022.
At Michigan Tech, we have developed a novel wound healing patch for use with adhesives or bandages at the wound site. The engineered patches resemble the natural tissue structure found in the body. The structures act as supports for the cells, guide cell growth and alignment and help in accelerating wound healing, reduce scarring and prevent secondary infections. Our innovation is the development of one-time patches optimized for different wound types using the same polymer materials that are biodegradable, biocompatible and FDA approved. We achieve this by changing the structure and mechanical strength of the structures during manufacturing. In addition to being constructed for specific wound types, they can also be customized by size as well as have drug release over time or anti-bacterial protection. Once administered, the patches will promote cell growth, provide structural support to new tissues, and strengthen the wound bed providing protection from repeated trauma. In our laboratory testing, the wound healing patches showed 250% higher growth of adult skin cells compared to a leading product currently available in the market. The patches have the potential to significantly reduce healing time in chronic wounds such as diabetic foot ulcer from a year to a few months and improve the overall quality of life.
The patches are made from non-woven nanofibers manufactured using electrospinning. The process has advantages of ease of manufacturing, reproducibility and large-scale production leading to cost effectiveness, adding to the commercial viability of the wound healing patches. We estimate the cost of manufacturing to be less than $20 each and are designed to be used once over the duration of the treatment. In comparison, current dressings cost $15 and are replaced every 2 days. We expect that the use of processes and polymers utilized previously in products approved by the FDA combined with the advantages of the engineered wound healing patches will reduce the time to commercialization and clinical use. The engineered patches have the potential to be a simple and effective solution to treating and healing chronic wounds.