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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 08:40 GMT
'Living bandages' for wounds
The technology for the 'bandage' was adapted from drinks cartons
The technology for the 'bandage' was adapted from drinks cartons
Researchers have developed a "living bandage", coated with a patient's own cells, which could mend wounds which cannot otherwise be treated.

Pressure sores, circulation problems and diseases such as diabetes can all lead to wounds which refuse to heal.

But researchers from Sheffield, UK, have produced the "biological bandage", inspired by a technique used in the production of drinks cartons.

Treating wounds costs the NHS over a billion pounds each year - 2% of its budget.

It could be useful, for particularly difficult wounds like diabetic foot ulcers, where amputation rates are particularly high

Kate Ballard, Wound Care Society
About six million people in Europe and the US have wounds that don't heal properly.

In addition to conventional dressing treatments, graft treatments using donor cells which release growth factors are also available.

If wounds deteriorate or become infected, limbs may have to be amputated.

Treatment hope

CellTran, a spin-off biotech company from the University of Sheffield, developed the new method, detailed in New Scientist magazine.

A patient's cells are scraped off their skin. They are applied to PVC discs and begin to divide. Then the discs are trimmed to size and placed on the wound.

The skin cells detach themselves from the disc and continue to grow until they cover the wound.

It is the coating on the discs which is the key to the success of the treatment.

To produce the coating, the researchers used the same process that is used to coat the inside of drinks cartons with a thin film of an acrylic acid.

On the discs, the polymer remains intact when it is growing the cells but dissolves when applied to wounds.

Initial success

The development of the treatment is still in extremely early stages, and CellTran stresses it will be years before it could be widely available to patients.

Its 2,000 cost could also mean it was reserved for the worst cases. But initial trials on a patient who had suffered a diabetic foot ulcer for four years found the treatment healed after 16 weekly applications.

More trials are planned by CellTran, if it can raise the necessary funding.

David Haddow, research manager for the company, told BBC News Online: "It's a simple concept, but it's been a long time getting to something that works."

Kate Ballard, a tissue viability nurse specialist at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital, London, and a member of the Wound Care Society, told BBC News Online: "Certainly it could be useful, for particularly difficult wounds like diabetic foot ulcers, where amputation rates are particularly high."

But she said the effectiveness of the surface treatment was irrelevant if the underlying cause of the wound was not addressed.

She said if bacteria were not eradicated they could literally "eat" the dressing put on to the wound.

See also:

05 Nov 01 | Health
Smart bandage 'spots infection'
24 Sep 01 | Health
'Growing a new knee'
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