Research has indicated that when skin is damaged due to severe injury or burns, there is a long wait that follows for the skin to grow back.
But now, Cornell scientists have designed improved tissue grafts that promote vascular growth, could hasten healing, encourage healthy skin to invade the wounded area and reduce the need for surgeries.
The biomaterials are composed of experimental tissue scaffolds that are about the size of a dime and have the consistency of tofu. They are made of a material called type 1 collagen, which is a well-regulated biomaterial used often in surgeries and other biomedical applications. The templates were fabricated with tools at the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility to contain networks of microchannels that promote and direct growth of healthy tissue into wound sites.
"The challenge was how to promote vascular growth and to keep this newly forming tissue alive and healthy as it heals and becomes integrated into the host," said Abraham Stroock, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell.
The grafts promote the ingrowth of a vascular system-the network of vessels that carry blood and circulate fluid through the body-to the wounded area by providing a template for growth of both the tissue (dermis, the deepest layer of skin), and the vessels. Type I collagen is biocompatible and contains no living cells itself, reducing concerns about immune system response and rejection of the template.
A key finding of the study is that the healing process responds strongly to the geometry of the microchannels within the collagen. Healthy tissue and vessels can be guided to grow toward the wound in an organized and rapid manner.
The research was published online in the journal Biomaterials. (