Hydrogel Could Make Burn Recovery Less Painful


Got burned? Use the hydrogel burn dressing.

For patients with second-degree burns, lengthy bandage changes can be more excruciating than the initial injury.

A new development could soon make those painful bandage changes obsolete. Enter the hydrogel burn dressing, a gel-like solution that acts as a barrier to infection for burns, keeps the wound moist, and—most important—can be washed off painlessly with a separate solution.

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The burn dressing is the latest project to emerge from the lab of Mark Grinstaff, a professor of translational research in the Boston University College of Engineering, who says his lab members are challenged to solve problems that have the greatest needs and where current technology doesn’t perform well.

The new dressing doesn’t just spare burn victims pain—it saves medical staff hours of time spent rebandaging, and since many children cannot sit still during the painful dressing change, it can eliminate the need to anesthetize young patients during rebandaging. For second-degree burn patients, the removal of dressings is extremely painful, because nerves are still exposed. With more severe third-degree burns, the nerves are burned away.

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“Even if you could save half the trips to the OR to change dressings, it would be a significant improvement,” says Edward K. Rodriguez, chief of the Division of Orthopaedic Trauma at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who worked on the project. “Imagine if you could just cover the wound directly with an aerosol-applied gel with antiseptic and pain control medication on it, and remove it at the bedside without having to take the patient to the OR.”

The burn dressing problem came to the fore when researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center lab of Ara Nazarian, a Harvard Medical School assistant professor in orthopedic surgery, failed to get funding for a different project—a gel to stop bleeding on the battlefield. The researchers looked around for another problem that might be tackled with the same concepts.

Now that the researchers understand the material and have proven it works on small animals, the next step is a large animal model, where they compare the technology to current products, Grinstaff says. If that larger animal study works as well as the small animal one, next is getting it into a clinical setting and figuring out how to manufacture it.

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Within two years, patients could feel a spray, instead of a painful cut, when it comes time to change their bandages.

The findings appear in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Grinstaff is also professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, professor of materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering, and professor of medicine in the School of Medicine, as well as director of the Boston University Nanotechnology Innovation Center.

Source: Allison Manning for Boston University

Original Study DOI: 10.1002/anie.201604827

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