Battlefield medics and emergency medical technicians may soon have a new tool for treating open wounds in the field: A cottony glass fiber developed by Missouri S&T ceramic engineers. The same cotton candy-like material also holds promise for helping diabetics, burn victims and others who suffer from hard-to-heal open wounds.
Developed by Delbert E. Day, CerE’58, Curators’ Professor emeritus of ceramic engineering, the material was found to speed the healing of open wounds (venous stasis wounds) in eight out of 12 patients enrolled in a recent clinical trial.
The nanofiber borate glass was developed in the laboratories of Missouri S&T’s Graduate Center for Materials Research and the Center for Bone and Tissue Repair and Regeneration, says Day, a pioneer in the development of bioglass materials. Day and his former student, Steve Jung, CerE’05, MS CerE’07, PhD MetE’10, developed the material over the past five years. Jung now works at Mo-Sci Corp., a glass technology company Day founded. Mo-Sci manufactured the material for use in the clinical trial.
Silica-based bioactive glasses have been proven to help stimulate hard-tissue cells for bone repair. But in early lab studies, Day and Jung found that silicate glasses did not respond well to fluids. The borate glasses, however, reacted to fluids at a much faster rate than silicate glasses.
“The borate glasses react with the body fluids very quickly” when applied to an open wound, Day says. “They begin to dissolve and release elements into the body that stimulate the body to generate new blood vessels. This improves the blood supply to the wound, allowing the body’s normal healing processes to take over.”
Clinical trials at Phelps County Regional Medical Center in Rolla began in the fall of 2010 with 13 subjects. One dropped out early in the process. All subjects suffer from diabetes and had wounds that had been unhealed for more than a year.
Depending on a wound’s severity, Day says it can heal within a few weeks to several months after the material is applied. “Within a few days, most patients see an improvement,” he says.
Day hopes to see clinical trials expanded to include patients with other types of wounds, such as burn victims.
This isn’t the first successful medical glass invention for Day. In the 1980s, he co-invented therapeutic glass microspheres to treat liver cancer patients. Now marketed under the name TheraSphere, the product is used to treat patients at more than 100 sites worldwide.