Many diabetics suffer from a condition known as venous stasis, which can result in wounds on their extremities that remain unhealed for up to several years – if infection sets in, amputation of the limb is sometimes even necessary. Such wounds can sometimes be treated with vacuum-assisted systems, but the equipment required is expensive, and must be carried by the patient at all times. In clinical trials conducted last year, however, human venous stasis wounds were quickly and thoroughly healed with an inexpensive new glass nanofiber material, that looks like cotton candy.
Known as "DermaFuse," the material is made from borate glass by the Mo-Sci Corporation in Rolla, Missouri. Similar "bioglass" materials do already exist, but they are made from silica and are used in the regeneration of hard tissues, such as bone. Boron has been shown to react to body fluids considerably faster than silica, and to be effective against harmful bacteria, which is why Mo-Sci chose to use it in DermaFuse.
The material is designed to mimic the microstructure of fibrin, which is one of the main components of blood clots. Like fibrin, the glass fibers trap blood platelets, and provide a scaffolding for the wound covering to form across. DermaFuse is also rich in calcium, which has been shown to speed healing by assisting the migration of epidermal cells to the wound site.
As the wound heals, the fibers are absorbed by the patient's body – little if any scarring results, and no bandages or sutures need to be removed.
After initial animal trials, DermaFuse was tried out on a group of 12 human venous stasis patients in 2010. Venous stasis is caused by poor blood circulation in the extremities, which results in fluid pooling in those areas (especially the lower legs) and creating pressure on the skin. When the skin cracks or receives a small wound and the fluid weeps out, an enzyme within the fluid erodes the skin and makes the wound larger, while also making healing difficult.
In the human trials, a nurse packed the material into the patients' wounds, then added a protective secondary covering. After a few months, the wounds on eight of the patients were fully healed, while the other four were reportedly progressing well.
Mo-Sci is now planning on expanded human trials in the coming months. It is hoped that DermaFuse could eventually also be used to treat injuries such as burns, or used as a field dressing by ambulance crews and army medics.
The research was just published in the bulletin of The American Ceramic Society.