New Materials Can Drive Wound Healing By Harnessing Natural Healing Methods

New materials can drive wound healing by harnessing natural healing methods, according to a report published on January 7, 2019.

Dr. Ben Almquist and his team at Imperial College London created a new molecule that helps the way in which traditional materials work with the body. The newly developed materials are known as traction force-activated payloads (TrAPs), which are capable of talking to the body’s natural repair systems to drive healing. According to the researchers, integration of TrAPs into existing medical materials could revolutionize the way injuries are treated. The findings of the study were published in Advanced Materials.

The researchers designed TrAPs as a way to recreate this natural healing method. The DNA segments were folded into three-dimensional shapes known as aptamers that cling tightly to proteins. A customizable handle that cells can grab was attached onto on one end, before attaching the opposite end to a scaffold such as collagen. When the technique was tested in the laboratory, they found that cells pulled on the TrAPs as they crawled through the collagen scaffolds. The pulling made the TrAPs unravel like shoelaces to reveal and activate the healing proteins. These proteins instruct the healing cells to grow and multiply.

As this approach can be adapted to various cell types, it can be used in a variety of injuries such as fractured bones, scar tissue after heart attacks, and damaged nerves. TrAPs are relatively straightforward to create and are fully man-made, which makes scaling up of these to industrial quantities easier.

Dr. Almquist said, “The TrAP technology provides a flexible method to create materials that actively communicate with the wound and provide key instructions when and where they are needed. This sort of intelligent, dynamic healing is useful during every phase of the healing process, has the potential to increase the body’s chance to recover, and has far-reaching uses on many different types of wounds. This technology has the potential to serve as a conductor of wound repair, orchestrating different cells over time to work together to heal damaged tissues.”