Healing Wounds with Antibiotic-Infused Biodegradable Microneedles: A Breakthrough for Diabetic Care

Discover the innovative solution to treat first-degree burns, wounds, and ulcers in diabetics, developed by experts. Antibiotic-filled biodegradable microneedles aim to prevent infections and speed up healing.

Healing Wounds with Antibiotic-Infused Biodegradable Microneedles: A Breakthrough for Diabetic Care
With university patches, it takes less time to treat burns and diabetic foot ulcers. Images: UNAM

Experts from UNAM's Faculty of Higher Studies (FES) Cuautitlán, led by José Juan Escobar Chávez, made a patch with antibiotic-filled biodegradable microneedles to treat first-degree burns, wounds, or ulcers in diabetics. The goal was to prevent infections and speed up the healing of these types of wounds.

In an interview, the university researcher explained that these are adhesive devices that are put on these kinds of cuts. Once they are in place, the drug is released and interacts with the skin without getting into the bloodstream.

They only have one antibiotic, a broad-spectrum cephalosporin, which kills a wider range of microorganisms. They also have things like D-panthenol and collagen, which help the epidermis grow back and create a good network for the healing process. They also help keep the skin moist and encourage new cell growth.

According to the Ministry of Health, in Mexico each year about 13 thousand people suffer some type of burn; more than a thousand cases occur in children, where nine out of ten are caused by water, oil, or prepared food. Direct fire, electric shocks, or chemical contact are the causes of the remaining injuries.

Meanwhile, one of the most common complications of diabetes is a diabetic foot, which is defined as the infection, ulceration, and destruction of deep tissues of the lower extremities by the World Health Organization. Damage to patients' nerves causes a loss of sensation in the feet, which is why they do not feel a cut, blister, or sore. These injuries can cause ulcers or infections and, in severe cases, amputation.

Microneedle preparation.
Microneedle preparation.

Challenges in Treating Burns and Chronic Wounds in Mexico

A specialist in the design and characterization of non-conventional pharmaceutical forms named José Juan Escobar said that burns, like chronic wounds, are hard to treat and expensive to take care of. Burns is one of the 20 leading causes of disease in Mexico.

In 2021, for example, 13 thousand of cases of patients with varying degrees of this damage were reported in Mexico. Epidemiological studies of the health sector show that in 2018 alone, almost two billion pesos were spent on hospital care as a whole.

About 46 million of these are treated through outpatient care, which is used to treat chronic wounds that have been poorly treated or have gotten worse. This number will only go up over time since the US has the most diabetic people in the world and the most wounds like diabetic foot, and because the population is getting older.

So, projects PAPIIT-CG100220, Conacyt-CF140617, and Research Chair 2206 (FESC) are helping to fund the project, which is in the process of getting a patent and is based on research he oversaw with postdoctoral students Pablo Serrano Castañeda, Diego Alonso Gutiérrez Pérez, and Luis Fernando Castillo Carmona, who were both in their first year of pharmacy school.

José Juan Escobar Chávez
José Juan Escobar Chávez

Revolutionary Skin Regeneration Patch for Effective Treatment of Burns and Chronic Wounds

He specified that "ointments, creams, and gels are available; however, due to the characteristics of burns or chronic wounds, these products are not adequately retained." "Given this, we seek to treat this type of wound in a better way and to favor the healing processes."

The development is a plus because it has an antibiotic to prevent infections, keeps the medicine in the affected area longer, and has factors that help the skin grow back. This means that the wound will heal faster and better.

The patch has the potential to regenerate the skin at 100 percent; its approximate dimensions are 25 square centimeters (5 x 5 centimeters), although depending on the size of the wound, it could be made larger. In the case of early-stage lacerations, the extent of the repair could be smaller. That is part of the versatility of this system.

Important mechanical tests, such as resistance to tearing, adhesion, and post-wetting, were used to evaluate the university invention. This is because chronic wounds and burns expose the different layers of skin, so it is important to make sure that the patches stay on even in these wound conditions.

Studies of antibiotic release through microneedle arrays and in vitro permeation were carried out using healthy and damaged skin. The objective was to simulate this type of pathology or accident.

In vivo evaluations were also done on an animal model (rodents), which showed positive results in terms of how wounds healed over time in diabetic feet and burns. This took a week and a half, which is less time for skin regeneration than other systems that were evaluated, which is why this system is important.

Escobar Chávez pointed out that in the permeation studies carried out on healthy and hydrated skin, it was shown that the drug is practically retained in the superficial layers of the skin, "which is positive for the purposes we are seeking and because we only want it to remain at that level, without the need for it to be absorbed, pass into the blood, and be distributed throughout the body; we are not interested in that."