Science and Technology

Human beings fall, get burnt and get injured and undergo surgeries. The resulting wounds are known by different names- abrasions, lacerations and avulsions. Healing the wounds have traditionally involved the application of a bandage aimed at keeping infections at bay and allowing the body to naturally heal itself, in case of smaller wounds, and assisted healing in the case of more severe wounds through reconstructive surgery. The methods of healing have seen improvements, though the basic framework of wound management has remained the same.

All that is about to change. After the “Electronic skin” that this portal apprised you off in the past, more good news in the domain of wound healing is emerging. Researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, have developed a hydrogel that is stretchable, self-healing, biodegradable and has haptic feedback, i.e., it can sense touch, just like normal skin. It can best be described as “smart skin” and could, one day, be the new Band-aid of wound healing. The biodegradability of the skin implies that it can be implanted into a patient to promote healing internally, and after it completes its job can be degraded within the body itself. This has a potential to completely revolutionize wound healing. If this sounds like good news read on.

Researchers at the Wake Forest’s Institute of Regenerative Medicine are working at the 3D printing of skin, which could have a whole gamut of applications in the domain of wound healing, especially in battlefield related wounds. This technology is called bioprinting.

In Toronto, researchers have developed a 3D skin printer, that can print layers of skin, onto deep wounds and help them heal quickly. A substantial portion of wounds received in the battlefield is burn wounds.

The military is highly interested in wound healing, not surprisingly at all, considering the extremely high rates of wounds received in the battlefield. They are researching engineered “skin-substitute” grown from the patient’s own cells, to treat injuries like burns.  The Wake Forest Institute is one of the institutes that is assisting the military in their wound healing research, having developed a scanner that analyzes the wound and then prints skin onto the wound leading it to heal.

The global 3D printing medical devices market is estimated to be around 1.88 billion dollar industry by 2022. Interest in wound healing by the public and private sectors is intense, both being deeply interested in the outcome of this research. It is no secret, therefore, that this industry is set to witness a boom like never before.

However, optimistic, as the outlook might be, all these technologies are still in their nascent phases. It will take some time for the technologies to hit the market, and when it does, the inevitable prohibitive pricing will keep it out of reach from the general public for some more time. That, however, is the natural progression of new technologies. We are witnessing a new era in the domain of wound healing, and the technologies may hit the market sooner than we expect.