Bandages have been made from fibers with antibiotic properties, but researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State; Raleigh, NC) are going even further to develop fibers that, when woven into bandages, could deliver drugs that promote healing and tissue regeneration. Elizabeth Loboa, associate professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering, has been working with a team including polymer scientist Benham Pourdeyhimi to develop these innovative fibers.
“What we’ve created is a technology that makes hollow porous core sheath nanofibers,” Loboa explains. “What we’re trying to create is what you can think of as a programmable bandage essentially for a patient-specific traumatic wound.” In Loboa’s example, a combat fighter with a wound that needed treatment would require an antibacterial, antimicrobial outer surface to prevent contamination. And, taking it a step further, the fighter could benefit from the release compounds that will control pain and inflammation, and also fibers capable of controlling tissue engineering regenerative medicine.
Loboa explains that in the lab, the focus is mostly on muscular skeletal tissue. By taking a little of a patient’s fat, stem cells can be obtained. By manipulating the scaffold, the stem cells can differentiate into the type of cells needed to heal the wound. “So, basically what we can do is change the stiffness of what you’re actually growing the cells on to help enhance taking these stem cells into different types,” Loboa says. “It’s a multilayer scaffold that, because of the fiber’s diffusional properties, can deliver all of these different compounds, and hopefully regenerate tissue and stop infection simultaneously.”