Published: 24 May 2012
Healing hopes for biochemist’s smart new gel
UQ biochemist Dr Annette Dexter is branching out into medical applications, with moves to prove a compound she has created has wound-healing properties.
Dr Dexter has developed a soft, biocompatible hydrogel at UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, which she believes will aid faster healing and less scarring.
The compounds, or peptides, which form the hydrogel have previously been used in Dr Dexter's research in developing industrial fluids and personal care products.
The hydrogel research has helped Dr Dexter and co-investigator Dr Swaminathan Iyer attract a travel grant, involving joint funding from The University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia.
The grant will help Dr Dexter collaborate with burns injury expert and 2005 Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Wood, with plans for pre-clinical trials of the hydrogel to move towards “proof of concept”.
In what is hoped will be an on-going collaboration, the two universities will also take part in a student exchange and workshops at both campuses.
Dr Dexter used pH adjustment of peptides in solution as part of the development of the hydrogel.
The hydrogel is made up of natural molecules and has no toxic components, which researchers believe will minimise interference in the healing of wounds, including burns.
It has been designed to aid the growth of healthy cells at the site of a wound so scar tissue does not form, before breaking down and allowing the body to take over the repair.
“This is the first time I have used designer peptides outside of the area of research into green surfactants, which I hope will reduce our reliance on petrochemicals to make household and personal care products and industrial fluids,” Dr Dexter said.
“The hydrogel with potential wound-healing properties takes me into a clinical space. It is a new use for our designer peptides. It is very exciting.”
Dr Dexter is an ARC Future Fellow and a co-founder of start-up company Pepfactants Pty Ltd, which makes and breaks foams and emulsions with potential uses in drug delivery, froth flotation and agrichemical formulations.
She will host a workshop involving UWA collaborators at AIBN in late 2012.
Media: Erik de Wit (0427 281 466, 3346 3962 or email@example.com)
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