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Científicos de Sheffield desarrollan tecnología innovadora para tratar heridas en la piel

Sheffield scientists develop innovative technology to treat skin injuries

Revolutionary skin reconstruction technology which could provide a safer, more effective way of treating burns, diabetic ulcers and similar injuries, has been developed by scientists at the University of Sheffield. A team of chemists, materials scientists and tissue engineers at the University, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, has developed a dissolvable scaffold for growing new areas of skin. This ultra-fine, 3-dimensional scaffold, which is made from specially developed polymers, looks similar to tissue paper but has fibres 100 times finer. Before it is placed over a wound, the patient´s skin cells are introduced and attach themselves to the scaffold, multiplying until they eventually grow over it. When placed over the wound, the scaffold dissolves harmlessly over six to eight weeks, leaving the patient´s skin cells behind.

This new approach to skin reconstruction has been designed primarily for cases involving extensive burns where surgeons are unable to take enough skin grafts from elsewhere on the body to cover the damaged areas. Currently, skin from human donors or bovine collagen - a fibrous protein found in cow´s skin - is used in these cases, but these approaches have potential health and rejection risks.

Professor Tony Ryan, from the University of Sheffield´s Department of Chemistry and who is leading the team, said: "Previous attempts to find better ways of encouraging skin cell growth have used chemical additives and other elaborate techniques to produce scaffolds, but their success has been limited. We´ve found that skin cells are actually very `smart´ – it´s in their DNA to sort themselves into the right arrangement. They just need a comparatively uncomplicated scaffold (and each other) to help them grow in a safe, natural way."

The next step in the research is to develop the skin reconstruction technology for clinical use, hopefully in the next few years. The technology also offers possibilities for testing the toxicity of cosmetic and similar products, using materials grown in the laboratory that closely resemble natural skin.

"Ultimately, we can envisage treatment of burns victims and the undertaking of reconstructive surgery using the scaffold and the patient´s own skin to produce bespoke skin for that patient," added Professor Ryan.

Notes for Editors: The three year research project "Synthesis, Processing and Characterisation of Peptide-Containing Block Co-Polymers for Skin Reconstruction" received EPSRC funding of just over £354,000.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK´s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests more than £500 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

For more information contact: Professor Tony Ryan, Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield, telephone 07879 431981, or e-mail: tony.ryan@shef.ac.uk

For further information or images please contact: Lindsey Bird, Media Relations Officer on 0114 2225338 or email l.bird@shef.ac.uk

Courtesy: The University of Sheffield

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