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Studying Worms Offers Insight into Human Wound Care

Studying Worms Offers Insight into Human Wound Care

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A team from Stanford is using nanoparticles to study wound healing in worms, and that could eventually translate to aiding human beings. 

Using nanoparticles to study wound healing in worms could eventually translate to aiding human beings.

A large percentage of research projects in the wound care industry focus on finding new ways to heal specific injuries. That could be the development of new drugs, the creation of groundbreaking dressing types or new methods for detecting harmful infections.

Yet while doctors create these new technologies, there are also efforts to better understand the core functions of wound healing. For instance, in fall 2016, doctors from the University of Minnesota found how sweat glands of elderly people actually impeded normal wound healing. These essential tidbits of information expand our knowledge base and make new research possible in the first place.

Now, a team at Stanford University is delving deeper into the wound healing basics, and their efforts could have huge implications for patients the world over.

Delving into worms 

According to a press release from the university, a research team from the department of materials science and engineering is using worms to test a series of biological force sensors. The worms in question are faced with a number of different meals laced with specialized nanoparticles, which will glow when exposed to infrared light. Not only that, but they’ll also change color based off the pressure levels of their surrounding environment.

These two pieces of information can be used to study several different functions and occurrences within the worm in real-time. The Stanford team chose worms because their digestive process involves what’s called mechanical gashing, and that helps show the researchers the level of force expressed upon each cell.

For the next phase, they’ll move on from healthy worms to those with mutations. It’s these subtle changes that will help the scientists better understand how certain genes impact cellular force and cause certain disorders. Ultimately, though, this information and study of worms will one day be applied to human models, according to professor Jennifer Dionne.

“Mechanical forces play a significant role in determining the fate and function of a cell or of an organ,” Dionne said. “For example, every time our heart beats, our ears hear or a wound heals, cellular forces are involved.”

In turn, this insight will help the Stanford team study other areas more effectively, including the development of cancer, how cells divide and even effective wound healing. The work of the Stanford team could have uses outside of just wound care. For instance, by studying how cells are involved with the process of touching, they might be able to develop more realistic prosthetic devices. For now, though, the team will spend its time studying worms, with movement into human sensor trials on a later date.

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