WisBusiness: Madison company’s silver nanoparticles help process of healing burns and wounds

By Laura Ahlgren

For WisBusiness.com

Imagine if a child with severe burns over 10 percent of his or her body could be healed with just one dressing, which kills infection-causing bacteria while promoting new skin growth at the same time. This innovative wound dressing technology may be coming to a burn unit soon, thanks to the work of Madison-based Imbed Biosciences.

Treating wounds such as severe burns is a tricky business. These wounds get infected easily and antibacterial ointments must be applied twice daily, which means two excruciatingly painful dressing changes. For children, especially, this makes an already difficult recovery even worse. Children often have to be sedated for dressing changes, as well as sometimes requiring feeding tubes, which produce even more complications.

A new type of dressing, called a biologic wound dressing, uses biologic components from animals which promotes growth of cells as a skin substitute. There are two sides to this biologic coin: the first being that it promotes skin cell growth which leads to faster healing, but yet it also promotes bacteria growth, which can cause infections.

About 20 percent of patients get an infection with a biologic wound dressing. Doctors like to use these biologic dressings because they are much easier on the patient in terms of pain and hospital time, but they don’t like the infection side effect.

This is where Imbed Biosciences and CEO Ankit Agarwal get involved. Imbed Biosciences is developing a new technology that can put a very thin coating of silver nanoparticles on existing biologic dressings.

Most people think of silver as something used in jewelry, but in fact, it has been frequently used for its antibiotic properties. However, doctors have had difficulty with silver in dressings since often the dosage is too large, thus killing skin cells as well as the bacteria.

Imbed Biosciences concentration of silver nanoparticles is about 100 times less than traditional dressings, but just as effective, according to Agarwal.

“This technology uses a method that does not affect the structure or activity of the biologic dressings,” Agarwal said.

Imbed’s technology allows this coating to be applied at the very end of the already established manufacturing lines, which is “low-cost and very simple,” he added.

This technology has not received FDA approval yet, and is being tested in animals in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School. One of the tests showed that the Imbed coating killed all the bacteria in the wound compared to the non-coated biological dressing. Agarwal expects about three more months of testing.

When this technology makes it to market, it will be slightly more expensive than existing biologic dressings, but the benefits for patients and their families would be less hospital time, fewer dressing changes and faster recovery. For burn and chronic wound patients, this could mean a vastly improved treatment for an already painful experience.

ImBed Biosciences is among the presenters at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, to be held later this week at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. The conference matches start-up companies with potential investors. In June 2010, the company was among the finalists in the annual Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

— Ahlgren is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.