Gold nanoparticles used in wound-healing tissue scaffolding
Healing wounds with tissue scaffolding is like constructing a building, explained University of Missouri biological engineering doctoral student Matt Cozad.
Picture the tissue scaffold as the metal framework of the building, said Cozad.
“Then people, or cells, come in and customize it to their needs,” he said.
Researchers have discovered that using gold as a “building material” can speed up the healing process in a technique being perfected by Cozad and his adviser, Sheila Grant, a professor of biological engineering at MU.
Microscopic bits of gold, called nanoparticles and nanorods, attract cells. The cells then latch onto the gold and grow faster than normal.
The scaffolding is made from pig’s diaphragms that have had all the pig cells washed off. What remains is a network of connective tissues that don’t cause immune responses in the patient.
“Picture tiny spheres in a solution,” explained Cozad, describing the water and gold mixture used to apply the gold to the scaffolding.
After being dunked in the solution, the scaffolding ends up covered in gold particles like sprinkles on a cake. It is then applied to an injury, like a burn or a diabetic’s wound. The gold sprinkled scaffold can speed up healing in anyone, but could prove particularly helpful to diabetics since their wounds often heal more slowly than other’s. Faster healing also means less chance of infection.
Cozad developed his interest in tissue scaffolding after an internship that exposed him to the use of techniques that speed healing. Later, at the University hospital, he was exposed to people with injuries that weren’t healing.
“I felt sympathy for the people with persistent wounds,” Cozad said.
The tissue scaffolding technique is not new. It is already in use growing new bladders, skin and other organs. A team in Minnesota has even rebuilt rat hearts from tissue scaffolds, noted Cozad.
But the use of gold nanoparticles, called composite tissue scaffolding, is an improvement to the process, though there is still much work to be done before the technique is used in human applications.
“Dr. Grant has been a great source of knowledge,” said Cozad of his adviser’s influence on the project, an extension of work Grant did with a previous grad student. “She has really helped me move forward,” he said.
Cozad said his father, back in St. Joseph, Mo., also had an influence on his choice to pursue bioengineering.
“Dad and I were always playing around, tinkering with some gadget,” said Cozad. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a huge fan of science. It’s interesting to think how complex we are.”