New Nanoparticles will assist in finding the Scarring of Wounds

New Nanoparticles will assist in finding the Scarring of Wounds

A new technology called NanoFlares will help doctors to prevent Scarring following heavy wounds.

The working mechanism of the body to heal wounds has always intrigued the scientists related to the field of medicine. A lot of work has been done in this domain but a team of researchers which was led by Xu Chenjie (a Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore), Dr. Amy S. Paller (the Chair of Dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Northwestern University), and Chad A. Mirkin (a Nanoscience Expert from the Northwestern University) has taken things to the next level. They have developed a method which will observe the process of scarring of heavy wounds and while doing so it will enable the doctors to intervene this natural procedure.

Until now, medical experts are dependent on Invasive Testing to predict the formation of scars following a major surgery or a burn wound. However, things are expected to change dramatically following the discovery of this revolutionary procedure. Researchers performed experiments on humans as well as animals and it was observed that these new nanoparticles were significantly accurate and quick to judge whether the wound will lead to excessive scarring (usually happens in skin contractures and keloids) or not. If the scarring seems obvious, doctors can timely fall back to the conventional preventative measures in order to reduce the scars as much as possible. Using silicon sheets to keep the wound moist and flat is a common technique that is used in this regard.

This new method of detection uses thousands of nanoparticles called ‘NanoFlares’. They have a ball of spikes on their surfaces as DNA strands are attached to them. The process begins when a cream having these nanoparticles is applied to a closed wound. They penetrate the cells of the skin in order to reach the target biomarkers and interact with them. Once they pass a time period of 24 hours in these cells, a handheld fluorescent microscope is used to look for any signals that may indicate the presence of abnormal scarring activity. If these signals are found, preventative measures can be tried to avoid heavy scarring. Chenjie explained the procedure to the world in the following words:

When our bioengineered nanoparticles are applied on the skin, they will penetrate up to 2mm below the skin surface and enter scar cells. Upon binding with a specific tell-tale gene released by the scar cells, smaller DNA spikes are knocked loose and light up under the microscope like little light flares. The more flares we see, the more scarring activity there is.” 

Right now, biopsies are the only possible way to detect skin diseases other than the visual examination. This is painful and risky as a sample of skin tissue is extracted from open wounds. This solution could prove to be the Pain-free Detection Method which will make the life of a patient a bit easier. Dr. Paller acknowledged that as she said,

Beyond clinical observation, the gold standard for both clinical diagnosis and translational research of skin disorders is a biopsy. This technology is an exciting first step towards having a non-invasive way to detect increases or decreases in gene expression. NanoFlares may prove to be a new tool to facilitate sub-phenotyping of disease based on expression patterns and leveraging gene expression changes as a sensitive way to detect early treatment responses.”

These NanoFlares were developed over a period of two years as tiny DNA strands targeting specific genes were coated with gold nanoparticles that are patented by the Northwestern University. Some Research Fellows from NTU were also involved in this research including Dr. David Yeo and Dr. Christian Wiraja.

The scope of this method is clearly evident from the fact that about 100 million people form scars annually in the developed countries of the world. The actual number will be many times more than as no statistical data is available for other parts of the world. Around 400,000 patients develop scars due to surgeries in Singapore each year. Dr. Yeo also pointed out towards other applications of these NanoFlares (in other publications) which include skin cancer. He mentioned that as the sequences of these nanoparticles are interchangeable, it might help scientists to develop a cure for cancer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *