Seaweed and wound healing - saving lives and the challenges that remain

Seaweed and wound healing - saving lives and the challenges that remain

I will be one of the first people to tell you, from experience, that medical science is already amazing. Medical science saved me after a serious scalping injury. From the paramedics to the nurses and surgeon, all trained to use technology that can maintain your life systems, while they harvest your own skin and use our own cell programming to close our wounds. A truly amazing progression in saving lives.

But there remains a challenge that keeps some of our leading skin clinicians up at night; that of scarring and function.

Embryonic wounds are not inflammed! Why is this so?

It is a funny thing that in the womb, embryonic skin can heal extremely well and with no scarring. We think that this is because there is no process of inflammation at the wound site. The cascade of things that happen at a molecular level in wound healing is a complex process, and we know that we need inflammation in a adult wound site to start the process of closing the gaping skin. Inflammation brings a suite of molecules to the site to start the closing process which could be important in saving your life. But what if we could deliver the foundations of molecules ahead of the inflammation, so that the body doesn’t need to signal for so much support and create so much scarring.

What can we target with seaweed bioinks to get ahead of the wound healing process?

Some of the things that could reduce inflammation at a wound site would be the presence of a scaffold that skin cells can attached to and organize themselves on, instead of having to build the scaffold first. This scaffold will need to hold lots of water, support the movement of molecules and cells, and also protect the newly forming scaffold proteins like elastin and collagen. Further the scaffold should help to reduce the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. These are some of the aspects in wound healing that we have been trying to address, to see if we can address in creating full thickness skin tissue.

The journey is underway to find new skin scaffolds to hasten and improve the wound healing process

In our recently published paper, that even made the front cover above, we have come a part of the way in creating a full thickness skin tissue in the lab from normal humans skin cells with our seaweed “inks”.

-Cell adhesion and production of skin proteins

-Protection of collagen and elastin

-Water holding capacity

-Regulation of contraction in wounds

-Improved structure and mechanical strength

-Prolonged and increased cell proliferation over 14 days

-Anti-inflammatory compounds

We hope to add more to this list in the mission to help clinicians not only save lives, but to return to fully functional lives without scarring. This is what I will present as a Keynote speaker at the Wounds 2020 conference (now in 2021 - starting in 3 weeks).