This year’s BRIght Futures Prize finalists are pursuing forward-thinking and inventive research to improve patient care. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Read about their work below, and vote for your choice.
Morteza Mahmoudi, PhD
Instructor, Center for Nanomedicine, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine
What problem are you trying to solve?
Non-healing, chronic wounds, such as bedsores and diabetic wounds, can create a wide range of devastating problems for patients and their families. The poor healing process of chronic wounds after trauma, surgery or acute illness affects millions of people worldwide. The death rate for patients suffering from chronic wounds is alarmingly high. For example, half of patients who have diabetic-related amputations will die within five years of the procedure. The associated costs – more than $30 billion annually in the U.S. alone – are another major issue. Despite extensive efforts in the development of therapeutic strategies, there is currently no effective treatment to heal chronic wounds. This is mainly because the proposed approaches use a single factor or cellular component to try to solve the complex problem of tissue repair.
What is your solution?
Chronic wounds have three main issues that obstruct the body’s normal healing process:
- The absence of a suitable environment in which cells can easily travel, rapidly multiply and form new blood vessels
- The rise of bacterial infection
- Unbalanced and prolonged inflammation in the wound site
Our solution is to address all three issues with one wound-healing patch, which delivers several therapeutic factors to restart the body’s paused wound healing process. This patch contains a cocktail of biomolecules that can help cells reach the site of a wound and create new blood vessels. It also mimics most of the skin’s characteristics.
We plan to harness the power of nanotechnology – the science of the super tiny – to help heal wounds. The specific nanotechnology we are using includes nanofibers – fibers that are 1,000th the diameter of a single human hair. We can use these nanofibers to help newly immigrated cells feel at home and also release tiny particles that can alert the immune system to act when they detect infection in the wound site. Finally, we have a biomolecule to temper long-term inflammation and prevent negative consequences, such as scar formation.
How will your research project benefit people?
Based on what we’ve seen so far in our models and in early results for carefully selected patients who suffered from chronic diabetic wounds and bedsores, we are extremely optimistic that this approach can substantially reduce the pain and increase the survival rate of patients who are dealing with non-healing wounds. But we need to keep testing. That’s where the BRIght Futures Prize comes in. With funding from this award, we’ll be able to:
- Test the patch’s healing capacity on other wounds
- Monitor how effective it is at minimizing the risk of infection and consequent amputation
- Increase the likelihood of successful translation of this technology into clinical practice.
If safe and effective, our patch would improve the lives of patients and their loved ones.
Collaborators and Affiliations
Several clinicians and bioengineers at BWH, Massachusetts General Hospital, Emory University, and Universidade de Santiago de Compostela
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