Wednesday, April 16, 2014

“Imbed Biosciences Could Help Burn Patients Heal Faster”

By Laura Ahlgren, Originally published on in the Fall of 2010.

Imagine if a child with burns over ten percent of his or her body could be healed with just one dressing, which kills infection-causing bacteria while promoting new skin growth at the same time. This remarkable technology of wound dressings could be coming to a burn unit near you.

Treating wounds such as severe burns is a tricky business. These wounds commonly get infected easily and require antibacterial ointments to be applied twice daily, which means two excruciatingly painful dressing changes.

For children, especially, this makes an already difficult recovery even more difficult. Children often have to be sedated for dressing changes, as well as sometimes needing feeding tubes to be put in leading to more complications.

A new type of dressing, called biologic wound dressings, use biologic components from animals which promotes growth of cells as a skin substitute. There are two sides to this biologic coin: the first being that it promotes skin cell growth which leads to faster healing, but yet it also promotes bacteria growth which can cause infections. About twenty percent of wounds get an infection with a biologic wound dressing. However, doctors like to use these biologic dressings because they are much easier on the patient with less pain and less hospital time, but don’t like this unfortunate side effect.

This is where Imbed Biosciences, led by Ankit Agarwal, PhD, hopes to come in. Imbed Biosciences is developing a new technology which can put a very thin coating of silver nanoparticles onto these existing biologic dressings in one step.

Imbed Biosciences placed first in the 2010 Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition, as well as placing second in their division in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Agarwal is also a Kauffman Entrepreneurial Postdoctoral Fellow in Chemical and Biological Engineering, and presented the business plan with a colleague. Imbed Biosciences will also be presenting at the 2010 Early Stage Symposium.

Most people think of silver as something used in jewelry, but in fact, it has been frequently used in wound management for its antibiotic properties. However, doctors have had difficulty with silver in ointments and dressings since the dosage often was too large, thus killing skin cells as well as the bacteria. Imbed
biosciences’ use of silver is one hundred times less than that of leading dressings, and is just as effective.

“This technology uses method that does not affect the structure or activity of the biologic dressings,” Agarwal said.

This is revolutionary because the process of incorporating silver with current technologies requires a lot of chemical and physical processing which degrades the biological components. Imbed’s technology allows this coating to be put on at the very end of the already established manufacturing lines which is “low-cost and very simple,” according to Agarwal. Also, using silver nanoparticles is the most stable form of silver, using one hundred times less silver than other applications.

This technology has not received FDA approval yet for use in clinics, and is currently being tested in animals in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School. One set of tests showed that the Imbed coating killed all the bacteria in the wound compared to the non-coated biologic dressing. Agarwal expects about six more months of testing on the current prototype.

When this technology makes it to market, it might be slightly more expensive than already premium priced biologic dressings, but it would reduce the overall cost of treatment for patients and their families by requiring less hospital time, less dressing changes, less pain medications, and faster recovery. For burn and chronic wound patients this could mean a vastly different, better treatment of an already painful experience.

Ahlgren [was] a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.

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