Chronic wounds, which do not behave or heal in an orderly progression like normal wounds, are a significant problem for patients and heath care providers around the world. Chronic wounds can take years to heal, or may never heal at all. They are known to be extremely painful, and can be debilitating in older patients or individuals who are obese or diabetic. Studies have shown the associated annual costs of treating chronic wounds in the United States to be $25 billion, and this cost is expected to increase exponentially in coming years as the number of diagnosed cases of chronic wounds grows.
There are several treatments for chronic wounds, from the use of antibiotics to maggot therapy. One of the more clinically successful therapies is negative pressure wound therapy, or NPWT. However this technology, which uses external pumps to create a slight vacuum around the wound, is expensive—on the order of $1,000— and therefore generally approved by insurance companies only as a last resort. Additionally, the devices are heavy, and require large batteries to run.
In this study, the researchers aim to develop a new lightweight NPTW device that will ultimately cost $10 and be used as a first resort, and not the last resort. The research team will investigate new methods for creating micromanufactured pumps that cam apply NPWT to wounds, and powered by batteries that are integrated into the bandage itself. Additionally, the researchers will study how NPWT impacts the role of signaling pathways relevant to cell differentiation, migration, and barrier function that are conducive to healing.