Edward Hæggström, professor of material physics at the University of Helsinki, and his research group have been developing artificial skin titled Acouspin, which may revolutionise the treatment of chronic wounds.
Chronic wounds occur, among others, in diabetics and those suffering from circulatory disorders, their frequency often increasing with ageing. Incurable ulcers decrease the quality of life and may lead to amputations and other serious consequences.
If Acouspin functions as expected, not only will it enable healing, but it will also protect the wound base from environmental microbes and the excess evaporation of fluids. Biodegradable artificial skin offers protection against mechanical and chemical irritation, enabling the healing of ulcerations.
Pharmacological substances could be embedded into the fibre produced with ultrasound
Underlying the efficaciousness of Acouspin is the long-term research conducted at the University of Helsinki’s Department of Physics. The manufacture of artificial skin is made possible through the control of biopolymers with ultrasound during the manufacturing process. So far, this type of technology is not in use anywhere else in the world.
This new method could enable the regulation of the permeability of the artificial skin by producing fibres of variable thickness and computer-designed fibre structures. When necessary, pharmacological substances could be embedded into the fibre produced with ultrasound. Regulating fibre thickness could influence the rate at which cells begin to create new living tissue inside the artificial skin, as well as the release rate of drugs. Patent protection has been applied for the technique and the artificial skin produced with it. At the moment, the research and related commercialisation are being conducted in a project funded by Business Finland.
Regulating fibre thickness could influence the rate at which cells begin to create new living tissue inside the artificial skin.
“There are plenty of products for wound care available. In practice, the options are comprised of traditional wound dressings, skin grafts for more difficult cases, artificial skin and flaps grafted from the patient’s own tissue. There are a handful of similar development projects around the world, but the others are pursuing products very different from our solution,” Hæggström explains.
The artificial skin development has been carried out by a multidisciplinary team. In addition to scholars of materials science, physicians from the wound care centre of the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa have participated in the project. Moreover, specialists in pharmacology, pharmacy and animal experimentation contribute to the group's work.
“Were it not for scientific expertise and research in various fields of science, the creation of this kind of artificial skin would be impossible,” Hæggström points out.
For now, the artificial skin has been tested on animals, with the desired results. Next spring, the group will begin acquiring funding for Acouspin, targeting funds sufficient for launching a new business. Progressing to patient trials as quickly as possible is a central objective.
Acouspin will be at the University of Helsinki / Helsinki Innovation Services (HIS) stand at Slush in Helsinki in the beginning of December.