NATIONAL - In our fast-paced world, we can be sidelined by injuries that take too long to heal. Now, thanks to advances in tissue engineering, a promising new material could speed up the process.
If your body has a problem, researchers at Purdue may have the solution. Dr. Alyssa Panitch says, "Primarily we're looking at materials that are bioactive and can interact with the body to control healing."
They're focusing on a matrix material made from man-made polymers and natural proteins. Dr. Panitch says, "Proteins are molecules within the body and then once they're modified, they'll interact with other molecules and assemble into a three-dimensional structure."
The idea is that doctors apply the material to an injury. The material fills in the area, instantly solidifies and mimics the surrounding tissue to promote new tissue growth. Dr. Panitch says, "We can signal to the cells that we want you to be bone, or we want you to be nerve, or grow in this direction."
Cynthia Lander's company is set to market the matrix material. "In the orthopedic sector, for example, if you have a cartilage injury we can help grow new cartilage."
And that's not all. Other possibilities include using the gel to heal wounds "outside" the body like stubborn diabetic ulcers. And the gel can act like a vessel to carry drugs that promote healing to an injury site.
Dr. Lander says, "You can tailor that material so it'll stay around for a week, for a month, for two months and release that drug over time."
Researchers have also done lab tests on the gel for spinal cord regeneration. Dr. Panitch says, "How far do we have to go? That's always sort of guesswork. If everything worked perfectly, ideally we could get into human clinical trials in just a couple of years."
So look for this bioactive band-aid in the future.
One other important application for the matrix material is to make wire mesh stents, implanted to keep blood vessels open, less likely to cause clots.