Develop "Smart" Wound Dressing
By Amy Spillman
January 10, 2003
Cotton gauze has been used to dress
wounds for hundreds of years because it is naturally soft, pliable and
absorbent. Now, a scientist from the Agricultural Research Service and his
collaborators are using modern technology to further improve this cotton
product and add to its list of beneficial characteristics.
For several years, Vince Edwards, a chemist in the
Chemistry Research Unit at ARS'
Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La., has been working with
scientists from the Medical College of
Virginia (MCV) at Virginia Commonwealth
University in Richmond.
In 1999, they developed a way to chemically modify cotton gauze so that it
selectively targets and soaks up elastase--an enzyme that breaks down
connective tissue proteins that are essential to proper wound healing. Elastase
exists at elevated levels in bed sores, diabetic foot sores and other wounds
that won't heal.
Although occlusive dressings, which limit water vapor loss and promote moist
wound environments, have become a viable option, cotton gauze remains the
standard dressing material for wound care in nursing homes and hospitals.
Edwards and his collaborators have conducted laboratory tests on their
chemically modified cotton dressings and achieved positive results. They hope
to test these "smart" dressings on chronic wound patients in the near
Technologies, a company based in Richmond, Va., has licensed the
technology. In 2002, it received a phase-one grant from the National Institutes
of Health through the Small Business Innovation Research program. The company
has applied for phase-two funding--$1 million--which would be enough to pay for
a clinical trial.
Every year, about one million Americans develop chronic wounds or pressure
ulcers, which result in patient care costs approaching $750 million. The
modified gauze that Edwards and his collaborators developed is simple and
inexpensive to manufacture. It may ultimately be used in hospitals and nursing
Read more about Edwards' research, including his role in developing a new
kind of occlusive dressing for burns, in the
January issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.