There are approximately 450,000 burns each year that require clinical care in the United States. Of these, more than 3,500 people are fatally injured.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Wichita State University is working to revolutionize burn care with a scaffolding system that prevents infection and promotes healing.
Dr. Eylem Asmatulu, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from KTEC Holdings to develop a “novel multifunctional three-layer bio-scaffold for localized and fast treatments of burn wounds.”
“We saw the burn market as a huge growth opportunity and we can contribute to that with a better product and help people with something that can treat burns of different sizes on any part of the body,” Asmatulu said.
Current commercially available burn treatments include gels, lozenges, and ointments.
“These are temporary solutions to the burn,” Asmatulu said. “We can make something that can keep the wound clean and that has a drug delivery mechanism. It will release the drug through the skin and make the patient heal faster and cleaner.
For this project, Asmatulu is working with Dr. Shang-You Yang, research associate professor of biology; Dr. Jeremy Patterson, dean of WSU’s College of Innovation and Design and executive director of Innovation and New Ventures; and Dr. Ahmed Ijaola, who received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Wichita State in 2021.
The scaffold system comprises three layers that work in concert to prevent contamination and encourage rapid healing.
The superhydrophobic layer is the topmost layer of the dressing and is made from recycled polystyrene. This layer is water repellent and has self-cleaning capabilities.
the gel forms the middle layer of the dressing and is loaded with the bioactive component necessary for wound healing. It is manufactured from polymers, nanoparticles, bovine serum albumin and aloe vera.
The hydrophilic layer is the bottom layer, which comes into direct contact with the wound and contains silver nanoparticles to destroy bacteria such as E. coli and S. aureus, which are commonly found at wound sites and are known to delay the healing process. wound healing.
Yang said the current products on the market are not enough to treat second- and third-degree burns.
“It’s not like a gel or a pad for burns,” she said. “Current marketable products can easily introduce contamination from the environment. We use particles that can prevent infections.”
The most critical time for burn patients is within the first 48 hours after the injury occurs, Yang said. During the first couple of days it is “the time when the tissue breaks down and bacteria are introduced to make the wound worse”.
Additionally, current burn treatments need to be changed frequently to ensure the wound remains clean; but whenever a burn wound is discovered, there is a chance that bacteria could be introduced to the wound. However, with the scaffolding system, the burn covers don’t have to be changed as frequently, reducing the risk of infection.
Ijaola, who currently works as a senior process engineer for Intel in Oregon, has been working closely with Yang to understand the biological science of burns.
“As a materials scientist, I studied the surface morphology, surface chemistry, thermal degradation, and wettability of the fabricated superhydrophobic and hydrophilic layer,” Ijaola said. “Besides this, I have done bacterial culture and biocompatibility studies under the tutelage of Dr. Yang.”
Asmatulu said Yang led the team on biological compatibility of materials used in the layers.
“He trained the students and taught them everything in terms of biological studies and testing the materials we produced,” Asmatulu said. “She helped us figure out if the material is toxic or safe for the human body.”
The scaffold system for burn wounds is still in the early stages of research, but the team is optimistic about the possibilities.
“We have been collaborating on projects related to electrospun technology for several years, starting with basic applications such as masks for COVID. As we advance in technology, we have begun to narrow its market fit,” Patterson said. “This interdisciplinary team has a lot of energy and motivation to see research get to the point where it can solve or help a health care problem and have a positive impact on society”.