After an injury, the most critical need is to stop the bleeding. But as traumatic injuries heal, they often produce significant scarring that is difficult to treat. Georgia Tech researchers are working on both sides of the problem, developing cell signaling techniques that may head off the formation of scars as well as techniques for addressing the fibrosis that is often the long-term result. Beyond helping halt the bleeding, the synthetic platelets would deliver regulatory chemicals designed to prevent scarring.
"The blood clot actually ends up directing how the entire wound healing process is going to occur," Barker said. "The initial clot matrix instructs very specific cellular behaviors which have consequences for the next wave of cells that comes in to do specific jobs, which have consequences for the next wave of cells. If we can modify that initial clot, it can become the three-dimensional matrix needed to build the regenerated or repaired tissue."
The synthetic platelets, made from tiny structures known as hydrogels, could be injected into the bloodstream where they would circulate until activated by the body's own clotting processes. Once activated, the particles which are about one micron in diameter would change shape, converting to a thin film that would help seal wounds. To develop these hydrogels, Barker is collaborating with Andrew Lyon, a professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
The bloodstream contains proteins known as fibrinogen that are the precursors for fibrin, the polymer that provides the basic structure for natural blood clots. When they receive the right signals from a protein called thrombin, these precursors polymerize at the site of the bleeding. To prevent unintended activation of their synthetic platelets, the researchers use the same trigger.
The researchers followed a process known as molecular ev
|Contact: John Toon|
Georgia Institute of Technology