Monday, July 22, 2024

3D printed wound dressing could improve treatment for burn, cancer patients

Treating burn victims can be quite challenging, especially when it comes to dressing changes. The frequency of these changes can cause a lot of pain and discomfort for the patient, which can make the recovery process even more difficult.

To bring some relief, the University of Waterloo researchers have created a new type of wound dressing material using advanced polymers. According to researchers, the new dressing could enhance the healing process for burn patients and have potential applications for drug delivery in cancer treatment as well as in the cosmetic industry.

“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”, said Dr. Boxin Zhao, a professor at Waterloo’s Department of Chemical Engineering. “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.”

To develop their intelligent hydrogel material, the team first performed a 3D scan of the patient’s face and body parts to customize it to an individual’s needs. This technique enables the dressing to make good contact with surfaces like noses and fingers, making it ideal for creating personalized wound dressings for burn patients.

The material also has applications for cancer treatment. Traditional chemotherapy treatment requires patients to be in a clinic for hours, which can be tiring and uncomfortable. This dressing can provide a constant drug release outside the clinic setting, alleviating some of the challenges associated with traditional methods.

The reusable material includes a biopolymer derived from seaweed, a thermally responsive polymer, and cellulose nanocrystals. The dressing’s thermal responsiveness allows it to warm on the skin and gently lower to room temperature.

In addition, when chilled in the fridge, the dressing expands but shrinks to a smaller size at body temperature, making it easier and less painful to remove. Also, the dressing is designed to provide time-release medication, allowing for longer-lasting pain relief.

“We also envision applications in the beauty and cosmetic industry,” said Zhao, Waterloo’s Endowed Chair in Nanotechnology. “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.”

The next step for Zhao’s research group is to continue improving the material’s properties to make it healthier and commercially viable.

Journal reference:

  1. Lukas Bauman, Boxin Zhao. Multi-thermo responsive double network composite hydrogel for 3D printing medical hydrogel mask. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.jcis.2023.02.021