Water-Based Gel to Be Tested as Dressing for Diabetic Wounds

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Photo: Guan Lab/WashU


Chronic wounds in people with diabetes are the leading cause of nontraumatic lower limb amputation because existing treatments cannot overcome the obstacles to healing, such as chronic inflammation, abnormal skin cell functions and delayed growth of new blood vessels.

Jianjun Guan, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Washington University in St. Louis’ McKelvey School of Engineering, is developing a new wound dressing to overcome those obstacles and lead to faster wound healing in those with diabetes with a four-year $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The work builds on prior research published in Science Advances in 2021.

In early experiments, Guan and his team found that after applying a single dose of their wound dressing into wounds in young diabetic mice, the wounds completely closed at day 14. Wounds treated with the hydrogel alone or left untreated were reduced to roughly half of their original size. (Image: Guan lab)

To overcome the obstacles, Guan and his team will control the transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFß1)/p38 pathway using a new wound dressing.

The wound dressing is composed of a water-based hydrogel and a peptide-based TGFß receptor inhibitor. The dressing, which is liquid when applied to the wound and solid at body temperature, would gradually release the inhibitor to block the TGFß1/p38 pathway to decrease tissue inflammation and improve migration of healthy skin cells to the wound, which would lead to growth of new blood vessels. In addition, the hydrogel in the wound dressing would scavenge reactive oxygen species in the wounds, further decreasing inflammation.

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