New techniques for the prevention and treatment of chronic sores

May 26, 2014 by Antonia Fischer
New techniques for the prevention and treatment of chronic sores

The latest Empa "Technology Briefing" took place at the end of April in St Gallen, dealing with the the treatment and prevention of chronic sores. Specialists from healthcare sector, science and the med-tech industry used the event to network and update on recent developments. A number of experts active in various branches of the field gave presentations on their most recent work.

As the average age in our society continues to increase, more and more people are suffering from chronic sores. In an ideal world this would be preventable, or at least the wounds could be treated so as to heal well without leaving scars. However current methods of treatment have only been partially successful and therefore there is great interest in new therapeutic techniques.

Juerg Traber, Director of the Bellevue Vein Clinic in Kreuzlingen, began the day by presenting an overview of chronic sores and their treatment. Amongst the topics he dealt with was the difficulty of defining what exactly is a "chronic" sore. Guidelines do exist, but every patient has their own individual set of conditions and sores are of different sizes – factors which influence the rate of healing. "You wouldn't expect a large area sore to heal completely in six weeks, but this doesn't necessarily mean that you're dealing with a case of chronic sores," he maintained. Normally a sore should heal in 4 to 6 weeks, and if this does not happen it may be an indication of chronic status. Exactly how these kinds of are treated in the course of day-to-day operations was described by the Head of Nursing at the Bellevue Vein Clinic, Maria Signer, with the help of examples drawn from real-life.

A range of approaches to prevention

Several companies have developed products aimed at preventing sores from becoming chronic in the first place. Compliant Concept, a spin-off of Empa and the ETH Zurich, has for example developed its "Mobility Monitor", a sensor which records the movements of patients as they are sleeping. Sickness or treatment with pain relieving medication can lead to a situation where patients do not move regularly when asleep.

New techniques for the prevention and treatment of chronic sores

This frequently causes bedsores, known in medical terms as decubitus ulcers, where the tissue around the pressure point dies, creating an open wound. The Mobility Monitor provides information to the healthcare staff on when and how often a patient should be turned in order to prevent bedsores from forming. Observation of 11 test patients over a two-week period showed that without the use of the Mobility Monitor, nursing staff tended to move their bedridden charges more often than was necessary. Using the Mobility Monitor allowed carers to reduce the rate of patient movement by around 40%, which not only reduced the work load on the medical staff but also meant that patients were disturbed less frequently during sleep.

A new bed sheet for use by bedridden patients, developed and tested by Empa and the Schoeller company, was presented by Anke Scheel-Sailer, Medical Director of the Research and Rehabilitation Quality Management Department at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre, Nottwil.

The surface of the bed sheet is microstructured which reduces the contact area, and therefore friction, on the skin when compared to conventional bedcovers. A study conducted by the Paraplegic Centre has shown that the novel bed sheets are indeed effective in preventing bedsores.

Credit: Alessandro Della Bella

Absorbable dressings and plant-based healing agents

There have also been advances in the treatment of chronic bedsores. In collaboration with the Nolax company, Empa has further developed a special "wound foam", an absorbable biocompatible polymer which encourages the closure and healing of chronic sores. Conventional dressings must be regularly changed, disturbing and possibly delaying the healing process. The new material offers a novel dressing which gradually becomes populated with connective tissue cells, while the polymer component simultaneously decomposes. The new skin layer is all that remains behind, as Katja Nuss of the University of Zürich's Competence Centre for Applied Biotechnology and Molecule Medicine reported. The material has also already been tested on animals.

Empa researcher Arie Bruinink of the "Materials-Biology Interactions Laboratory" and his team have optimised the material and structure of the wound dressing so that it is non-toxic, becomes populated with human cells and – depending on its particular composition – dissolves away in one or two weeks.

Using an elaborate process, a three-dimensional cell structure consisting of around 15,000 human cells was created to test whether cells would actually populate the dressing. Generally speaking Bruinink and his colleagues use such cell and tissue cultures to develop functional and biocompatible materials for use within the human body. "Our aim is to develop in vitro methods which have a high prognostic value when applied to in vivo situations," said Bruinink.

Explore further: Nontoxic scaffold developed: New skin for chronic wounds

Related Stories

Nontoxic scaffold developed: New skin for chronic wounds

September 2, 2013
The concept is amazing: a synthetic cell carrier is populated by skin cells and dissolves simultaneously. In just two years, the Lucerne-based company nolax and Empa have developed this project up to a first proof of concept ...

Understanding aspirin's effect on wound healing offers hope for treating chronic wounds

May 12, 2014
In addition to its known capacity to promote bleeding events, aspirin also inhibits wound healing. New research published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine now describes how aspirin acts on key skin cells called keratinocytes, ...

When it's more than just a flesh wound

March 27, 2014
If you have a sore that hasn't improved in a month then chances are you are not receiving the specialised care you need.

To assess the mobility of bed-ridden patients

April 26, 2012
In June a monitoring system is becoming commercially available that will allow nursing staff to accurately record the mobility of bedridden persons. The system has been developed for the prevention of bedsores by Compliant ...

Bacteria on the skin: New insights on our invisible companions

April 29, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A University of Manchester study examines how skin-dwelling bacteria influence wound healing - findings could help address chronic wounds, a common ailment in the elderly.

Textile pressure ulcer prevention: Improving quality of life for the bedridden

November 16, 2012
Immobile patients are in constant danger of developing pressure ulcers on the skin. Empa, Schoeller Medical and the Swiss Paraplegic Centre have worked together to develop a special sheet that is gentle on the skin and helps ...

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.