Novel 3D-printed wound dressing could enhance healing of burn patients

This polymer-based dressing might also be utilized to deliver chemotherapy in cancer treatment.
Mrigakshi Dixit
3D-printed dressing prototype.
3D-printed dressing prototype.

University of Waterloo 

There has been significant medical progress in the treatment of skin wounds in recent years, ranging from electrical healing treatments to smart bandages

However, no specific medical remedy has been developed to treat severe burn wounds. Patients who suffer from severe burns frequently require dressing changes, which can be painful. 

To bring some relief, researchers at the University of Waterloo have come up with a unique wound dressing material to treat skin burns. 

What distinguishes it from the rest is that it can be 3D-printed to create customized dressings based on the location of the burn and even to cover the uneven parts of the face, like the nose.  

Development of the dressing

This soft, flexible dressing is made of hydrogel. For this novel dressing, the team first performed 3D scans of the burnt body part and then 3D-printed to cover the wounded tissue precisely.

This technique allows the dressing to cling to the uneven surfaces of the skin, like the nose and fingers. 

In addition, the hydrogel-based dressing substance can be preloaded with medicine and administered directly into the wound. This reduces the need for frequent dressing changes, reducing removal pain. 

"To treat burn victims, we can customize the shape using a 3D printer, secondly, the material has fine-tuned surface adhesion, which is a key feature. The material can easily adhere to the skin and be taken off. It's a very delicate balance within the material to make the adhesion work," said Dr. Boxin Zhao, a professor in Waterloo's Department of Chemical Engineering, in an official release. 

The ability for this dressing to be less painful to remove is thanks to the thermally responsive polymer material. 

When it's time to inspect the wound, a cold cloth is placed on the dressing's exterior surface, allowing the hydrogel to cool and expand and letting the material loosen its hold on the scar. Thereby allowing the removal of the dressing with little to no discomfort. 

The reusable material includes a biopolymer obtained from seaweed, a thermally responsive polymer, and cellulose nanocrystals.

Other applications of this new dressing

Apart from simple removal from the skin and the ability to speed up the healing process for burn victims, this advanced dressing may also be used in other medical applications. 

This polymer-based dressing might deliver chemotherapy in cancer treatment and be utilized to deliver chemotherapy in cancer treatment as well as in the cosmetic industry.

"We also envision applications in the beauty and cosmetic industry. Cosmetologists can utilize 3D scanning technology to analyze their clients' facial features and customize hydrogel masks infused with specific facial and skin regimen products. Additionally, this innovative approach can benefit plastic surgeons,” said Zhao. 

The study has been published in the Journal of Colloids and Interfacial Science.

Study abstract:

3D printing of multifunctional hydrogels offers great opportunities for developing innovative biomedical technologies as it can provide custom-designed shapes and structures conformal to arbitrary contours. There have been significant improvements of the 3D printing techniques, but the available printable hydrogel materials limit the progress. Here, we investigated the use of a poloxamer diacrylate (Pluronic P123) to augment the thermo-responsive network composed of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) and develop a multi-thermoresponsive hydrogel for photopolymerization 3D printing. The hydrogel precursor resin was synthesised to be printable with high-fidelity of fine structures and once cured can form a robust thermo-responsive hydrogel. By utilizing N-isopropyl acrylamide monomer and a Pluronic P123 diacrylate crosslinker as 2 separate thermo-responsive components it was found that the final hydrogel displayed 2 distinct lower critical solution temperature (LCST) switches.

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