Researchers in China have recently developed a new wound dressing that has the ability to improve the healing of open wounds. The group developed the dressing using an extract from konjac, a plant native to eastern Asia, and incorporated silver nanoparticles within it.

When tested in rabbits, the researchers found that the dressing accelerated healing of open wounds and killed any bacteria that could cause an infection. This is of particular interest as wound infection is still a common healthcare problem.

Sponge-Like Moistness

The wound dressing acts in multiple ways. Firstly, because of the dressing’s ‘sponge-like’ structure, it is able to retain a lot of fluid. This means, when it is applied to an open wound, the dressing can absorb wound fluid known as exudate, keeping the wound site moist.

Keeping a wound moist is important as it aids regeneration of new tissue. It promotes cells involved in wound healing to migrate to the wound site and enhances their capacity to initiate critical mechanisms in healing. Additionally, removal of a dressing from a moist wound is easy and reduces the risk of damage to newly formed tissue.

When the researchers evaluated their dressing they found, as well as absorbing fluid, it promotes growth of fibroblasts (key cells in wound healing). However, the most interesting finding occurred when the dressings were applied to rabbit wounds.

Silver Nanoparticles

The team tested the dressing’s ability to accelerate healing of both infected and ‘healthy’ wounds.

What is exciting is the fact that the dressings significantly improved healing in both conditions and appeared to prevent the spread of bacteria in infected wounds. It is thought this was achieved via a second mechanism of action in the dressing.

As mentioned previously, the researchers incorporated silver nanoparticles, which are widely reported to carry antibacterial properties, into the dressing. In their early lab tests, the dressings were shown to suppress bacterial growth. It is thought that, when implanted into infected wounds, the silver nanoparticles effectively killed bacteria in the wound site.

When the two properties are combined (antibacterial and healing promotion), the result is a very promising, possibly marketable product that could significantly improve prognosis of open wounds.

What Next?

The data presented by the researchers, while promising, represents very early stages of development.

However, their initial tests of the dressings in rabbits were extremely successful. This is significant because, in order to progress a product through clinical trials, it is important to have strong evidence of its viability in animal models.

Further pre-clinical studies are planned and, if the dressings continue to show promise, the research team hope to begin the process of pushing the product through clinical trials. If successful, this dressing could eventually be available for doctors to use in the clinic.

There is a great demand for new developments to improve prognosis of deep wounds and it is hoped that breakthroughs such as this could contribute to future improvements in treatment.

Chen, H., Lan, G., Ran, L., Xiao, Y., Yu, K., Lu, B., Dai, F., Wu, D. & Lu, F. A novel wound dressing based on a Konjac glucomannan/silver nanoparticle composite sponge effectively kills bacteria and accelerates wound healing Carbohydrate Polymers, 01 March 2018, DOI: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2017.11.029

Author: Dr Sam Moxon; Biomaterials Research Associate at the University of Manchester. Image: © Salix / Wikimedia Commons. Amorphophallus konjac fruit

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