Plants and animals inspire tissue-restoring dressings

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Parker: Cotton candy-like machine action speeds wound healing.
Parker: Cotton candy-like machine action speeds wound healing.

Engineers have developed two new nano ber dressings that accelerate healing and improve tissue regeneration.

Both dressings — created by researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering — use naturally occurring proteins to promote healing and regrow tissue.

The team described a wound dressing inspired by fetal tissue in Biomaterials. Fetal skin has high levels of a protein called fibronectin, which promotes cell binding and adhesion.

Senior author Kit Parker, a professor of bioengineering and applied physics at Harvard, and his team manufactured fibronectin using rotary jet-spinning. It works likes a cotton candy machine — the fibronectin is dissolved in a solvent, loaded into a reservoir and pushed out through an opening by centrifugal force. The polymers solidify into fibers that can be collected to form a wound dressing.

“The dressing integrates into the wound and acts like an instructive scaffold, recruiting different stem cells that are relevant for regeneration and assisting in the healing process before being absorbed into the body,” said Christophe Chantre, a grad student and author.

Wounds treated with the fibronectin dressing showed 84% tissue restoration within 20 days, compared to 55.6% restoration with standard dressings.