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3D-printed wound dressing could improve burns and cancer treatment

Posted on the 14th June 2023

3 D printed bandage

A new 3D-printed polymer-based wound dressing could enhance the healing process and reduce pain for burn victims.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ontario conducted 3D scans of patients’ faces and body parts, which let them personalize the device according to each individual’s specifications, so that it could easily make full contact with surfaces such as noses or fingers.

Frequent dressing chances are needed when conventional products are used on burn victims, which can be incredibly painful. The surface properties of the Waterloo team’s design can be fine-tuned and its adhesion to the skin can be managed, meaning it can be removed with ease.

Dr. Boxin Zhao, a professor of Chemical Engineering at Waterloo whose team develops intelligent hydrogel materials for use as reusable wound dressings, hopes the new design could improve the treatment burn victims receive.

"To treat burn victims, we can customize the shape using a 3D printer. Secondly, the material has fine-tuned surface adhesion, [and] can easily adhere to the skin and be taken off. It's a very delicate balance within the material to make the adhesion work."

Another feature that researchers say could have a significant clinical impact is its thermal responsiveness. Made of a seaweed-derived polymer, a thermally responsive polymer, and cellulose nanocrystals, the dressing expands to a smaller size at body temperature, making it easy and less painful to remove.

The dressing is also designed to provide time-release medication, allowing for longer-lasting pain relief. Its ability to provide a constant drug release outside of clinical settings could alleviate some of the challenges associated with current cancer treatments, whereby patients receiving traditional chemotherapy have to spend several hours being administered drugs in hospital.

Zhao also hopes the invention could be of use for plastic surgeons, and envisions its future application in the cosmetic industry: "Cosmetologists can utilize 3D scanning technology to analyze their clients' facial features.”

A study highlighting the team's progress was published in the Journal of Colloids and Interface Science. Researchers now plan to continue improving the material’s properties, in order to make it healthier and more viable.

Related: MHRA announces changes to medical device regulations

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