Newly Developed Elastic Hydrogel May Enhance Wound Healing

Unique thermoresponsive and elastic properties make Elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) effective for biomedical applications. A new research study published in Advanced Functional Materials discusses newly developed ELP-based hydrogels and how they are tested in lab tissues and animal models for wound healing. This strong hydrogel made of proteins becomes as elastic as human tissues such as skin and blood vessels upon exposure to UV light. The researchers say that even though this highly elastic biomaterial is still in its early days awaiting human trials, it will be used for healing wounds from injury or surgery one day.

The major challenge involved when it comes to developing strong elastic materials from proteins is adjusting the elasticity and flexibility to match the body tissue. As per the research, ELP-based hydrogel is formed when a photocrosslinked ELP gel using only canonical amino acids is exposed to light. Light causes disulfide bond formation (to form strong bonds between the molecules) and makes ELP-based hydrogel mechanically stable without any need to add chemicals. Thus, this kind of hydrogel is not only very flexible, but also activated very easily using light.

Certain synthetic gels degrade into toxic chemicals in time while some natural gels are not that strong to withstand the speed of arterial blood flow through them. However, researchers found in their test that the ELP hydrogel could control its toughness and withstand more stretching than artery tissue. This makes ELP hydrogel suitable to use as a sealant to create a protective barrier above the wound. It was found in further tests that the potential of elastic hydrogel in supporting wound repair can be improved even more by combining it with silica nanoparticles that had already been proved for the capacity to stop bleeding. According to the researcher, the combination of ELP hydrogel and silver nano particles would allow physicians to stop bleeding quickly with a single treatment.

Though the newly developed ELP hydrogel has the potential to repair wounds faster, it is very important to understand the type of wound thoroughly. In general, hydrogel dressings are applicable to the following wounds.

  • Dry or dehydrated wounds
  • Partial or full-thickness lesions
  • Abrasions or severe scrapes
  • Minor burns
  • Wounds with granulated tissue development
  • Skin damage due to radiation

To understand the nature of the wound, accurate and complete documentation of wound assessment is essential. Rather than relying upon paper charting or general EMR, wound EMR is the best choice. Since there are only wound-specific templates within the system, there is a lesser possibility of making mistakes and more specific information can be accessed quickly. A better documentation system is also necessary to ensure a more effective technology.