Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Empa

'Living bandages' for chronic wounds

Health & Wellbeing

Researchers are aiming to cure chronic wound infections with probiotic dressings

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Spotted: Usually, wounds follow a familiar healing route: soreness is followed by gradual closing, scab-forming, and eventually a scar or a mark so minimal that it’s hard to tell there was ever a wound to begin with. For some patients, however, this is not the case. 

A wound that takes over 6 weeks to heal is likely to be infected, and treatment becomes more challenging as time goes on because persistent, infection-causing germs produce a biofilm of mucus that protects them against antibiotics or disinfectants. What is more, once a healing disorder commences, there is a massive increase in the risk of conditions like blood poisoning or septicaemia. This challenge is what researchers from Empa and MIT, led by Dr. Qun Ren, are trying to address through a ‘living bandage’.  

In essence, the team’s innovative dressing uses ‘good’ probiotic bacteria to combat stubborn biofilms and get rid of an infection for good. Harmful germs typically thrive in an alkaline environment, so the bandage relies on lactobacilli – a microbe typically used in cheese production – to produce lactic acid and return the wound environment to a favourable acidic level.

Dr. Qun Ren highlighted: “With the increased emergence of antimicrobial resistance, a global crisis, finding effective solutions become imperative. The work was inspired by using nature’s weapon to fight against naturally occurring problems (…) Interestingly, we found that probiotics can not only combat bacteria and biofilm formation, but also promote cell migration, potentiating its application in wound management and other related fields.”

So far, the team has carried out extremely promising lab experiments, published in Microbes and Infection. In a 3D model of a human skin wound, the lactobacilli reduced the number of pathogens by 99.999 per cent. After such success, the researchers are working to optimise the living bandages so they can be widely utilised as soon as possible. The team is also exploring other beneficial applications of probiotics.

Springwise has also spotted other innovations to improve wound healing, including a dressing that delivers medication and another bandage that changes colour to reveal any infection. 

Written By: Archie Cox 

Email: Qun.Ren@empa.ch

Website: empa.ch

Contact: empa.ch/contact

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