An Israeli scientist has developed a revolutionary dressing that could drastically cut down deaths from burns.
Despite advances in treatment regimens and the best efforts of nurses and doctors, about 70% of all people with severe burns die from related infections.
Prof. Meital Zilberman of TAU's Department of Biomedical Engineering has developed a new wound dressing based on fibers she engineered, fibers that can be loaded with drugs like antibiotics to speed up the healing process, and then dissolve when they've done their job. A study published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Applied Biomaterials
demonstrates that, after only two days, this dressing can eradicate infection-causing bacteria.
The new dressing protects the wound until it is no longer needed, after which it melts away. "We've developed the first wound dressing that both releases antibiotic drugs and biodegrades in a controlled manner," says Prof. Zilberman. "It solves current mechanical and physical limitations in wound-dressing techniques and gives physicians a new and more effective platform for treating burns and bedsores."
"Our new composite fibers consist of a strong core coated with a drug-releasing, or 'eluting,' solution. They combine strength with the desired elements necessary for drug delivery, so they can be used as the basis of biodegradable drug-eluting stents," says Prof. Zilberman.
Her unique coating technology, she adds, can be used to coat both metal stents, which are currently available, and the biodegradable stents now in development.
Pre-programmed to release the drugs in a controlled manner, Dr. Zilberman's patent-pending fibres can also be designed to dissolve within a precise number of months, so the stent can do its work, then disappear.
"Wound dressings must maintain a certain level of moisture while acting as a shield," she says. "Like skin, they must also enable fluids from the wound to leave the infected tissue at a certain rate. It can't be too fast or too slow. If too fast, the wound will dry out and it won't heal properly. If too slow, there's a real risk of increased contamination."
The new wound dressing, which does not yet have a formal name, is designed to mimic skin and the way it protects the body. It combines positive mechanical and physical properties with what medical researchers call "a desired release profile of antibiotics."
PProf. Zilberman says that her biodegradable drug-eluting fibers, only five times the thickness of a human hair, can be applied in cancer treatments as well, particularly for cancers in hard to reach and sensitive areas such as in the brain, or in small children, she notes.
"When you take a tumor out of the brain, you can't 'clean' the surrounding brain tissue, attempts to do so may lead to additional tissue damage. But if you left our biodegradable drug-loaded fiber in the brain, it could do the work, then disappear when it's no longer needed," she says.
And since the fibres are thin and delicate, Prof. Zilberman adds, laparoscopic methods can be used for their insertion, further increasing the chances for a full recovery.
So far, Prof. Zilberman and her Ph.D. student Amir Kraitzer have conducted biological experiments using an anti-cancer drug developed at TAU by Prof. Yoel Kloog, dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences, and the results have been very encouraging.
Prof. Zilberman is continuing her work on her feasibility studies in both stenting and in cancer. Meanwhile the applications of this novel technology multiply as fast as she can imagine them: Prof. Zilberman has also developed a bone growth scaffold and dissolvable wound healing application, both derived from this basic research.