Battlefield wounds not only take time to heal but often leave visible scars that constantly remind the victim of the horror. Pain during treatment and healing extend the suffering from the wound’s immediate shock. We’ve written about tech solutions to stop hemorrhaging from wounds on the battlefield such as injectable bandages developed at Texas A&M University. We also covered smart bandages that monitor oxygen levels, developed jointly by staff with the Wellman Center for Photomedicine of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS).

More recently, researchers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) developed two types of nanofiber wound dressings to accelerate healing and promote tissue regeneration. The dressings employ proteins from plants and animals that support healing. Published studies of each nanofiber back their effectiveness. Observing that fetal wounds before the third trimester healed without scaring due to high levels of the protein fibronectin in fetal skin, the team devised a way to engineer fibrous fibronectin. A scaffolding constructed of the fibronectin fibers integrate into a wound and assist regeneration much faster and more completely than standard dressings. The estrogen-like molecules in soy protein also support wound healing. The researchers once again created a wound dressing with superior healing qualities, in this case from soy-protein fibers.

The two nanofiber technologies developed by the Harvard-based team have different qualities. The soy-protein-based fiber is relatively inexpensive to produce and more suitable for large-scale wounds, such as burns. The more costly fibronectin dressings, which have the added advantage of preventing minimizing scarring, would be more appropriate for small wounds on the hands or face. Harvard’s Office of Technology Development is pursuing commercial opportunities for both technologies.