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Polymeric Biomaterials
May 7, 2015   
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Researchers from the Lodz University of Technology’s Institute of Applied Radiation Chemistry have developed an innovative hydrogel dressing for the treatment of diabetic wounds.

The new dressing is based on another type of hydrogel dressing that has been available for 20 years and patented in Poland, the United States, Britain and Germany. The older type of dressing has so far been used to treat tens of thousands of burns, bedsores and trophic ulcers. Like the older type, the new dressing was developed by a team headed by Prof. JanuszRosiak. The newer dressing contains a substance from the tetrapeptide group of organic compounds, delivering it straight to diabetic wounds. When the tetrapeptide reaches its target, it stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, which helps halt the necrosis of tissues in the wound. The researchers say their invention can result in fewer amputations.

Applied directly to a wound, hydrogel dressings do not stick to it, allowing oxygen to penetrate the wound while shielding it from external infections. Such dressings also ease pain and absorb fluids that seep out of wounds. At the same time, they maintain a moist environment. Importantly, hydrogels absorb necrotic tissue, so when a dressing is removed, so is the dead tissue. Dressings of this kind release drugs at a specified rate, so that a doctor’s intervention is not necessary.

The tetrapeptide in the new dressing is naturally present in the human body and has a relatively short half-life of around five minutes when in the bloodstream. That means its concentration level is very low in a healthy organism. When tetrapeptide is injected into tissues around a wound, the area where it is active cannot be precisely controlled. Injections produce high concentrations very quickly, after which the tetrapeptide vanishes just as rapidly. This limits the therapeutic benefits of such injections. Meanwhile, the hydrogel dressing components produced with the method used by Rosiak’s team are first mixed in water and then placed in the packaging of the dressing. Tightly sealed, the dressing is then sterilized with an electron beam, producing a sterile hydrogel patch or sheet with tetrapeptide that is ready to be gradually released into a wound.

The use of ionizing radiation to sterilize the dressings and trigger chemical reactions in them has also allowed the researchers to devise technology for other medical products. One example is hydrogel systems for induced childbirth. In addition to inducing labor, such systems make labor less painful for the mother. Hydrogel biomaterials have so far been used by more than 300 women giving birth and proved highly effective.

The ŁódĽ researchers have also designed a range of polymeric biomaterials for application in tissue engineering. The materials include tissue scaffolds used to grow new nervous tissue and skin as well as hybrid artificial organs. In the case of organs, the researchers focused on polymer casings for transplanted tissues (islets of Langerhans, thyroid cells), designed to protect the tissues from the recipient’s immune system and enable them to function properly over extended periods of time.

The achievements of Rosiak’s team also include a unique method to produce polymeric nanogels and studies on how such nanogels can be used in drug delivery systems. The method aims to minimize the toxic effect drugs can have on patients, especially in cancer therapy. This method also enables the selective delivery of drugs to specific areas of the body. Prof. PiotrUlański, who is in charge of this research, is working on specific nanogel systems with researchers around the world, including those from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For further information on the team’s research, go to mitr.p.lodz.pl/biomat

Janusz M. Rosiak
Institute of Applied Radiation Chemistry
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