Public Release: 

Innovative 'self healing' bandage to help diabetics

EPSRC Press Release

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

A revolutionary type of 'self healing' bandage that uses the patient's own cells is being developed. The technique has already been tried successfully on patients with diabetic ulcers and in the long-term could offer a more effective, quicker and cost efficient way of treating many types of slow-healing wounds such as pressure ulcers. The bandages are already available for patients with severe burns.

The bandages have been developed by CellTran Ltd., a spin-out company from the University of Sheffield. CellTran has grown from fundamental research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Levels of diabetes in the UK are forecast to rise significantly in the years ahead. Chronic ulcers affect many diabetics, with sufferers often attending clinics for months or years to have their wounds dressed. CellTran offers an innovative but simple approach to healing diabetic ulcers and other slow-healing wounds, based on a combination of surface engineering and cell biology.

A small tissue sample is taken from a patient and a culture is grown from the cells in a laboratory. The cells are then placed on a membrane made from a medical-grade polymer. The membrane has been treated with a special cell-friendly coating, enabling skin cells to attach and grow on this surface. When cells are ready, the cell-membrane bandage is taken to the relevant clinic and used to dress the patient's wound instead of a standard bandage.

Because these cells belong to the patient, they are not rejected by the body but can actually transfer to the wound and grow. For particularly difficult wounds, the cells are applied every week. Early clinical studies have shown that weekly dressings enable these difficult wounds to heal in an average of eight weeks. Clinical trials are now under way, and the technique is also being used on other types of ulcer and on patients with extensive burns.

The underlying EPSRC-funded work at the University has focused on the development of surfaces that human cells will not only grow on but also transfer from to the patient's wound. It is also developing new approaches to culturing human skin cells without using animal derived products such as bovine serum.

The new bandages could take some pressure off healthcare budgets by reducing the need for long-term patient treatment. CellTran also aims to develop off-the-shelf products which can be used in the patient's home, avoiding visits to outpatient clinics altogether. Sheila MacNeil, CellTran's Research & Development Director and Professor of Tissue Engineering at the University of Sheffield, says; "we are moving the technology through to clinical use as quickly as we can and our objective is to make it as simple to use and as low-cost as possible".

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Notes for Editors:

The main EPSRC-funded project that provided the basis for CellTran's work, "Surfaces to Enhance Tissue Culture of Skin", ran for 3 years 9 months and received EPSRC funding of around £110,000. An EPSRC doctoral training award was also made under the title "Plasma Polymer Surfaces for Co-culture of Keratinocytes and Fibroblasts".

CellTran Ltd was established in 2000 by Professor Sheila MacNeil and Professor Robert Short of the University of Sheffield, with investment from the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund and Sheffield University Enterprises Ltd. In January 2003, CellTran closed a £1 million fundraising exercise with the following investors: the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund, Sheffield University Enterprises Ltd, Catalyst Biomedica and a corporate investor. Patents have been filed to cover key aspects of CellTran's work.

CellTran's product 'MYSKIN' is available for burns patients and was launched at the British Burns Association meeting on 28th April this year in Manchester through Vernon Carus' 'autologi' division. Later this year 'MYSKIN' will be available for the many patients whose lives are adversely affected by their foot and leg ulcers throughout the UK. For more information on CellTran Ltd visit: www.celltran.co.uk The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests more than £500 million a year in research and postgraduate training to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and from mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements in everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. Website address for more information on EPSRC: www.epsrc.ac.uk/

For more information, contact:

Dr David Haddow, General Manager, CellTran Ltd. Dr Haddow was also involved in the original EPSRC funded research at the University of Sheffield for this project. Tel: 114-222-0980, E-mail: d.b.haddow@sheffield.ac.uk (available from week beginning 24th May)

Professor Sheila MacNeil, CellTran's Research and Development Director and Professor of Tissue Engineering at the University of Sheffield. Tel: 114-222-5995, E-mail: s.macneil@shef.ac.uk ( available from week beginning 31st May)

There are three images available from the EPSRC Press Office, contact: Natasha Richardson, tel: 44-179-344-4404, e-mail: natasha.richardson@epsrc.ac.uk or Jonathan Wakefield, tel: 44-179-344-4075, e-mail: jonathan.wakefield@epsrc.ac.uk.

Picture details and suggested captions:
Foot Ulcer. jpg: 'Complete healing of a long standing diabetic foot ulcer in 8 weeks'
MYSKIN.jpg: 'This is what the 'biological bandages' look like in the cell culture laboratory'
Plasma Reactor.jpg 'Dr David Haddow carrying out the deposition of the cell friendly coating onto flexible medical grade polymer'

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