Australian researchers have started work on lifelike skin tissue to further studies on healthcare developments like smart bandages.
The team of engineers, led by Professor Sally McArthur from Swinburne University and the CSIRO, is starting from a simplified skin system of the outer and inner layer and using it to understand how tissue responds to skin wounds, infections and inflammation.
McArthur said: “What we were trying to do is to see if we could make a system that would be reproducible, easy to make in the lab and also give us the specific properties that we're looking for when we want to look at how infection works in the skin.”
The materials explored are like a fibrous mat, made up of differently sized fibres that, for the most part, are less than 500 nanometres – on the scale of a fine human hair and smaller than the bacteria that the team is trying to attract to them.
“They work much like a gauze dressing would, and we can change the surface chemistry to make them resist bacteria and make bacteria want to attach to them.
“So as a wound is healing, we don't really want the cells to attach to the dressing, because that makes it harder to take off, but we want the bacteria to attach, so we had to find ways of changing the chemistry and the size of those fibres to look at how that might work,” McArthur said.
The team will then use sensor systems to study responses to biomaterials and will begin to add other cell types to provide immune responses.
“We're trying to work on how to make a model that better reflects how infection actually works in the body … so that the waste products for the bacteria and things like that can be refreshed, so you would get a sort of flow in the tissue.
“Longer term, as part of this program that CSIRO is studying, we're looking at how to add in the cells that would naturally be in your body that would fight those infections as well, so the inflammatory cells.”
McArthur said she would love to hear from nurses to help the team better understand how the developments could be used.
“We're really keen to make sure that anything we do is really connected with the people who at the end will use it, so we're very keen to hear from people who know how these things work in practice, rather than our theory.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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