Colorado State University Professor Receives $1.3 Million Defense Grant to Develop Artificial Wound-Healing Aids for Battlefield Injuries

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The Department of Defense has awarded a Colorado State University chemistry professor a three-year, $1.3 million grant to develop an artificial, wound-healing material for battlefield injuries.

Melissa Reynolds, assistant professor and the only Boettcher Investigator at Colorado State, has developed a biodegradable polymer with healing properties – essentially a soft plastic – that could be used inside or outside the human body. The material contains nitric oxide, which is a naturally occurring substance within the body that can prevent infection while also promoting healthy cell growth.

Reynolds and her team are in the early stages of developing a prototype, but eventually, the material will look like gauze in a first-aid kit. This gauze, however, will have additional biological materials to help heal more effectively.

“This material could be used on deep cuts inside the skin and muscles to prevent infection and bleeding and help the cells start to grow back in a healthy way. Eventually, the material dissolves into the body,” Reynolds said.

“The wound-healing properties of this polymer would be particularly useful for the military or in natural disasters. In the case of the devastating events in Haiti, for example, there were a lot of cases of injury and infection. These materials could be dropped out of a plane as the first line of defense toward injuries that tend to cause long-term problems.”

The new material could be used to coat medical devices such as stents, orthopedic implants, patches and sutures and help the devices do what they’re supposed to do: provide medical treatments without causing complications in the surrounding cells or tissues. In later years of the Department of Defense grant, Reynolds will work with E.J. Ehrhart and Simon Turner, professors in the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, to test the product.

In 2010, the Boettcher Foundation named Reynolds as one of only six 2010 Boettcher Investigators as part of the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Program, which helps recruit, retain and advance scientific talent in Colorado.

“Dr. Reynolds has been on a steep trajectory in her research career following her recognition as a Boettcher Investigator,” said Bill Farland, vice president for Research at Colorado State. “The generous grants awarded by the Boettcher Foundation and the state’s Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Grant Program, through the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, have helped stimulate important research in her laboratory.”

The state’s Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Grants are intended to accelerate commercialization of new discoveries and support new business development in bioscience and biofuels.

“We’ve made one generation of materials so far and we’re continuing to develop others, but now with the DOD funding, we can really accelerate that,” Reynolds said.

On behalf of Reynolds, Colorado State University Research Foundation filed a patent application and helped her form a company for accelerating the time-to-market for biocompatible coatings. The company, Diazamed, licensed the patent from CSURF and was created with the help of NeoTREX, the commercialization arm of the Cancer Supercluster at the university. NeoTREX is a division of CSU Ventures Inc., a non-profit corporation.