Still the most important initial choice of treatment, wound dressings not only protect an open wound from further infection, but also the active substances they contain encourage healing, which can be effective particularly at the early stage. However, conventional dressings are manufactured from collagen — made from human or animal connective tissue – so cannot guarantee germfree hygiene. Lack of oxygen due to wound covering can cause further problems. The quality of materials is therefore decisive for successful therapy.
At the Bayer subsidiary BIG (Bayer Innovation GmbH), project teams working on various innovative wound healing therapies and treatment strategies are researching high-quality substances and modern procedures, Bayer reports. They are using the characteristics of the well-known silica gel based on scientific findings at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research in Würzburg, Germany. ‘Not only does it ensure germfree cleanliness during treatment, but the fibres of the silica gel also have the positive ability to make skin cells stick to them faster and better so that newly developing fibrous tissue has better support,’ Bayer explains. ‘The natural structure of the wound closure facilitates an optimum supply of nutrients for the newly forming connective tissue. As the wound dressing is processed by the body at a slower pace than other materials this allows for optimum cell proliferation.’
‘When the protective bond decomposes too quickly, or is not structured enough, which leads to a large accumulation of skin cells. This in turn leads to an undersupply of these cells with nutrients. In the end the internal cells die and the newly formed tissue collapses into itself,’ adds Iwer Baecker, Head of the Project for Bioresorbable Silica Gel.
In the future, the BIG investigation into completely new methods may lead to a move away from conventional wound dressings. One issue is of particular interest. ‘At the moment only flat wound dressings are available,’ Dr Burkhard Fugmann points out. ‘This is why we have tried to find a material that will adapt to the actual shape of a wound in a better way.’
Further optimisation of active substances is another important area of research. Bayer’s approaches centre around the addition of growth factors that are lacking within the chronic wound, and inhibitors that prevent the break down of growth factors through protein-decomposing enzymes. Dr Fugmann’s long-term goal is the development of a ‘…building set for chronic wound healing’, which brings together the optimum combination of different treatment methods.