An engineer from Purdue University has developed a new method of treating wounds for people who suffer from diabetic foot ulcers. Rahim Rahimi is an assistant professor in the School of Materials Engineering and has created a microneedle array on a flexible polymer composite. The array is designed specifically to treat chronic non-healing wounds by penetrating the physiochemical bacterial biofilm on the wound’s surface, allowing it to be oxygenated and to deliver bactericidal treatments.
The challenge of healing this type of wound is that the biofilm on its surface is a shield preventing antibiotics from reaching infected cells and tissues deeper inside the wound. Since the flexible patch the engineer created has lots of small microneedles, it can pierce the shield to absorb the fluid underneath, allowing the antibiotic to be delivered directly to ulcerated cells and tissue. The new flexible patch is a better method for penetrating biofilm than traditional methods, requiring a doctor to peel the biofilm away physically.
The problem with peeling away the biofilm for those who suffer from chronic ulcers is that it hurts, and the peeling process also impacts healthy tissue. Another significant upside for the microneedle array is that there is no pain because the needles are too short to touch nerve endings in the foot. Another benefit is that the microneedles are designed to dissolve.
In the research, the team tested the array on ex vivo porcine wound models and found that the microneedles dissolved in less than five minutes, and the antibiotic was delivered, allowing the patch to be removed. The next step in the development process for the wound treatment is to search for partners to conduct human trials. A patent is pending on the microneedle array, and the University is looking for partners for licensing.