Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Wurzburg have developed a new type of wound dressing made of silica gel fibers that hold promise of helping heal difficult wounds caused by burns or diabetes.
The new dressing forms a supporting matrix for newly growing skin cells and is fully absorbed by the body during the healing process.
Wounds can be treated with conventional collagen dressings or polylactic acid dressings, but the success rate is not as good as it should be.
The researchers hope that the new type of dressing shall solve the problem.
It has many advantages like it is shape-stable, pH-neutral and 100 percent bioresorbable.
Once applied the dressing remains in the body, where it gradually degrades without leaving any residues.
Besides this, the fibre fleece provides the healthy cells around the edges of the wound with the structure they additionally need for a proper supply of growth-supporting nutrients.
To avoid any infection, treatment of the wound must be absolutely sterile.
"As only the outer bandage needs to be changed, the risk of contaminating the wound is low," Dr. Jorn Probst of the ISC, said.
And because of the supporting matrix for the cells, the chances of a scar-free natural closure of the wound are very good.
The fibers are produced by means of wet-chemical material synthesis, a sol-gel process in which a transparent, honey-like gel is produced from tetraethoxysilane (TEOS), ethanol and water in a multi-stage, acidically catalyzed synthesis process.
The gel is processed in a spinning tower.
"We press it through fine nozzles at constant temperatures and humidity levels," Walther Glaubitt, the inventor of the silica gel fibers, said.
"This produces fine endless threads which are collected on a traversing table and spun in a specific pattern to produce a roughly A4-sized multi-layer textile web," Glaubitt added.
The dressings are then cut, packed and sterilized.
Now, the scientists plan to integrate active substances such as antibiotics or painkillers in the dressing to improve and accelerate the healing process.