Yihua Loo 1 , Yong-Chiat Wong 2 , Elijah Z Cai 3 , Chuan-Han Ang 3 , Ashvin Raju 3 , Anupama Lakshmanan 1 , Alvin G Koh 1 , Hui J Zhou 4 , Thiam-Chye Lim 3 , Shabbir M Moochhala 2 , Charlotte A E Hauser 5
There is an unmet clinical need for wound dressings to treat partial thickness burns that damage the epidermis and dermis. An ideal dressing needs to prevent infection, maintain skin hydration to facilitate debridement of the necrotic tissue, and provide cues to enhance tissue regeneration. We developed a class of 'smart' peptide hydrogels, which fulfill these criteria. Our ultrashort aliphatic peptides have an innate tendency to self-assemble into helical fibers, forming biomimetic hydrogel scaffolds which are non-immunogenic and non-cytotoxic. These nanofibrous hydrogels accelerated wound closure in a rat model for partial thickness burns. Two peptide hydrogel candidates demonstrate earlier onset and completion of autolytic debridement, compared to Mepitel(®), a silicone-coated polyamide net used as standard-of-care. They also promote epithelial and dermal regeneration in the absence of exogenous growth factors, achieving 86.2% and 92.9% wound closure respectively, after 14 days. In comparison, only 62.8% of the burnt area is healed for wounds dressed with Mepitel(®). Since the rate of wound closure is inversely correlated with hypertrophic scar formation and infection risks, our peptide hydrogel technology fills a niche neglected by current treatment options. The regenerative properties can be further enhanced by incorporation of bioactive moieties such as growth factors and cytokines.