Sugar and hydrogel dressing to speed wound healing

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A new way of stimulating blood vessel formation, using a combination of simple and inexpensive sugar added to a hydrogel bandage, has been developed by academics from the University of Sheffield and COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Pakistan.

The research, conducted by the department of materials science and engineering and the School of Clinical Dentistry at the University of Sheffield and the Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Biomedical Materials Research at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, found that sugar can help aid new blood vessel formation, also known as angiogenesis. New blood vessel formation is crucial for wound healing as blood vessels carry blood around the body which ultimately supplies the body with oxygen and nutrients.

The new way of stimulating blood vessel formation with sugar uses a combination of simple and inexpensive sugar added to a hydrogel bandage. This successful method is much more simple and cost-effective than more traditional methods such as adding in expensive short-lived growth factors. The new technique conceived and developed by the collaborative research group, works because a specific group of sugars can stimulate skin healing.

Professor Sheila MacNeil from the department of materials science and engineering at the University of Sheffield said: “Throughout the world, people are living longer and unfortunately experiencing more non-healing skin wounds associated with age, poor blood supply and diabetes. These are often difficult to treat and are very expensive for healthcare systems to manage. The new skin healing technique using simple sugars, promises to aid wound healing more simply, meaning patients would need less treatment, clinicians could treat more patients and significant savings could be made by national healthcare systems.”

Doctor Muhammed Yar from COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Lahore made the initial discovery during his research to understand how tumours stimulate new blood vessels. He found that a naturally occurring sugar (2-deoxy-D-ribose) increased when tumours encouraged new blood vessels to be made.

Working with Professor Sheila MacNeil and Professor Ian Douglas from the University of Sheffield, the team then investigated the ability of this group of sugars to stimulate new blood vessel formation and stimulate wound healing – both of which produced successful results.

This innovative research is a key step to developing simple, robust and low-cost wound dressings that can be used to treat poor-healing wounds such as chronic ulcers in the elderly and diabetic ulcers.

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) stimulates endothelial cells to migrate, proliferate and form new blood vessels. However direct delivery of VEGF has not become clinically adopted as a means of stimulating blood vessel formation and wound healing because of its relatively poor stability and its production of immature blood vessels. A simpler way of stimulating production of VEGF in situ is explored in this study following reports of deoxy sugars involved in inducing VEGF production. The pro-angiogenic effect of L and D isomers of deoxy sugars (ribose, fucose and rhamnose) loaded into biodegradable chitosan/collagen hydrogels was examined using a chick chorionic allantoic membrane assay. The L-sugars were all pro-angiogenic but only the 2-deoxy-D-ribose had strong effects on angiogenesis. Furthermore, these sugars could not be metabolised by four strains of Staphylococcus aureus, as a metabolic substrate for growth, although some of these could be metabolised by another typical pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The effects of 2-deoxy-D-ribose in a chitosan/collagen hydrogel on wound healing were also assessed. This biomaterial doubled the rate of cutaneous wound healing in rats associated with an increase in vascularisation detected by staining for CD34 positive cells.

Muhammad Yar, Lubna Shahzadi, Azra Mehmood, Muhammad Imran Raheem, Sabiniano Roman, Agif Anwar Chaudhry, Ihteshamur Rehman, CW Ian Douglas, Sheila MacNeil

Sheffield University material
Materials Today Communications abstract

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