At Apex Biologix in Utah, supplying clinicians with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) kits is all in a day’s work. In the not so distant future the company might be supplying kits that combine both PRP and dressings derived from marine algae. Ongoing research shows promise for combining alginate dressings with PRP to promote healing of even the most aggressive wounds.
Researchers at the University of Maryland’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering have been working on a project that takes well-established alginate dressings and infuses them with PRP serums before being applied to patients with exuding wounds. The idea is to take advantage of what we know about both alginate dressings and the function of platelets in response to open wounds.
To say that this research is exciting is to understate the obvious. Wound healing is a major concern with all sorts of injuries. It is a concern every time a patient undergoes surgery. Wounds are even a big concern among bedridden patients in nursing homes and hospitals. If the University of Maryland researchers can prove the efficacy of PRP-infused alginate dressings, it will change the way clinicians look at wound healing.
Alginate Dressings from Marine Algae
It is important to note that alginate dressings are not new. Doctors have been using them for more than 60 years. These dressings are derived from brown seaweed and certain kinds of marine algae, by treating the organic material to extract polymers that are then used to form a film. The film is applied as a wound dressing.
Alginate dressings are helpful for wound healing thanks to a couple of key properties they possess. First, the dressings absorb secretions extremely well. This is important when you are dealing with an exuding wound. Second, the polymers in the dressing are very good at preventing bacterial growth. The combination of high absorption and antibacterial properties promotes faster and more complete healing of moderate to serious wounds.
PRP Therapy for Wound Healing
Just as alginate dressings have been used to treat moderate to severe wounds for decades, PRP therapy is something surgeons have been utilizing for quite some time. PRP serum offers a number of benefits for post-surgical wound healing:
- Blood Clotting – One of the most important functions of blood platelets is clotting. Every surgeon knows that clotting is necessary in order for wounds to heal.
- Growth Factors – In addition to platelets, PRP serum also contains many different growth factors involved in the healing process. While platelets clot, the growth factors signal the body to send the necessary resources to the site of the wound to begin healing.
Despite the fact that surgeons have been utilizing PRP for decades, there hasn’t been a way to utilize the therapy for moderate to severe exuding wounds – like pressure ulcers for example – until now. That’s where alginate dressings come in.
Taking It to the Wound
What the University of Maryland researchers are working on is a means of successfully treating pressure ulcers in patients suffering from debilitating injuries. They have created an alginate dressing with polymer beads infused with PRP serum. Once the dressing is applied, the beads slowly release the serum into the wound itself.
Even as the dressing absorbs the discharge and prevents bacterial growth, the platelets are clotting and the growth factors are jump-starting the healing process. And because alginate dressings can be rinsed away with a saline solution, new dressings can be applied without the risk of reopening the wound.
Doesn’t this sound exciting? It is, even if doctors are using algae on open wounds.