When doctors need to change the dressing on a severe second-degree burn, they often have to pull off the bandage and scrape the wound to remove any dead tissue. Because the nerves are still active in second-degree burns, removing the bandage can be so painful that children who are burn victims are often anesthetized to make the dressing changes less traumatic. Boston University chemistry professor Mark W. Grinstaff and colleagues have now come up with a gel-like dressing material that dissolves on demand with the simple addition of a thiol. When the researchers spray the material with a solution of cysteine methyl ester, the thiol breaks down the cross-linked material by severing its thioester linkages. Grinstaff’s team, which included Marlena D. Konieczynska of Boston University and Juan C. Villa-Camacho of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, tested the hydrogel dressing on rats with second-degree burns. Not only did the bandages seal the rats’ wounds, Konieczynska reported at the ACS national meeting, they also kept out bacteria that the researchers applied on top of the dressed burn (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201604827). This is important because infections are a major cause of death in burn patients. Grinstaff hopes to test the hydrogel burn dressings on patients within the next 12 to 18 months.
For the longer, original version of this story, reported from the ACS national meeting in Philadelphia, click here.