Chronic wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers, venous leg ulcers and pressure ulcers are characterised by an abnormal healing process failing to form blood clots and an epithelial layer on the skin surface. Despite optimal care, effective healing of chronic wounds represents a significant medical challenge. Novel methodology aids the production of keratin dressing Considerable effort has been devoted lately to the development of active wound care products that apart from antimicrobial protection contain ingredients that promote wound healing. The EU-funded SkinKer project exploited the physiological role of keratin in skin reconstruction for the healing of dermal injuries such as those caused after burning. The SkinKer project was undertaken by Kerline, a company with a battery of keratin-based biomaterials suitable for dermocosmetics, drug release, or as a source of amino acids and peptides in supplements. “Keratin-based dressings may have the potential to improve healing outcomes and avoid the need for surgery,″ explains Alberto Del Rio, project coordinator and CEO of Kerline. Kerline has developed an innovative technology that offers an outstanding technological and manufacturing advantage compared to other products as it allows the fabrication of safer, cost-effective and advantageous dressings. The proprietary method generates nanofibre dressings from water-soluble keratin in combination with other active pharmaceutical ingredients. “This is undoubtedly the most remarkable achievement of the project,” emphasises Del Rio. The FullKer® biomaterials consist of high-molecular-weight keratin that is homologous to the human protein and exhibits high biological activity. The generated keratin fibres are biocompatible, non-immunogenic and safe since the extraction process is water-based and avoids the use of toxic organic solvents. Importantly, the physicochemical features of the keratin fibres can be exploited to incorporate active ingredients or drugs, for customisation of the SkinKer dressing. The prospects of the SkinKer dressing Although clinical testing is pending, the keratin fibres have been thoroughly studied in terms of drug release over time, biodegradability and ability to promote fibroblast growth in vitro with impressive results. The SkinKer dressing offers controllable drug release prolonging antibacterial protection and acting against localised inflammation. Furthermore, the nanofibre structure of the dressing provides a scaffold with a high surface-to-volume ratio facilitating cell attachment. At the same time, it protects the wound area from loss of fluid and proteins, and aids in the removal of exudates. As such, the SkinKer dressing is an optimal solution for the treatment and regeneration of injured tissue. During the SkinKer feasibility study, partners defined the dressing specifications and identified the certification process required for product commercialisation. Looking back, Del Rio proudly states: “Our success stems from a combination of commitment, dedication and excellent research. The experience gained during the project will serve as a guide for the future.” Kerline partners envisage production scale-up to 1 million dressings in the next 5 years, which however requires capital ventures and investments from large biomedical companies. Apart from the construction of an industrial plant to accommodate large-volume production, the SkinKer project identified the potential market for the commercial exploitation of the technology. Undoubtedly, the wound dressing market is rapidly growing given that the prevalence of chronic wounds in United States citizens is similar to that of heart failure.
SkinKer, dressing, keratin, wound healing, drug release, wound dressing, nanofibre, wound care