I’ve always thought of myself as someone who takes pride in scars - small jagged lines across my knuckles, ankles and chin that mark past brushes with trauma. But I realize that bravado only goes so far. If I were to suffer truly large or widespread wounds, I wouldn’t be quite so gung ho for lingering signs of their existence.
Needless to say, large wounds take a long time to heal, which accounts for their propensity for more severe scarring. Skin recovers from injury when connective tissue cells called fibroblasts migrate from the outer edges of the injury to build new tissue. The farther these fibroblasts have to travel the more likely they’ll get tripped up along the way, forming scars.
The ETH Zurich team so far have only worked in cell cultures in the laboratory. They injured top layer cells by scraping them, then place the bandage material on top.
The bandage has small parallel grooves on its surface. When the scientists place the grooves perpendicular to the wound edges (so in the direction of wound healing) the wound closes faster. The grooves appear to give the fibroblasts a framework to travel along, like vines growing up a lattice.
By providing support for fibroblast migration, the cells travel more efficiently so the wound heals faster with less scarring.
The ETH Zurich team still needs to test the bandage on animals and humans, but they’ve already submitted patent applications. They anticipate the greatest market for their product in burn therapies.