Jennings Receives Nearly $500,000 DOD Award to Develop Healing Technologies for Burn Wounds

(republished from UofM Media Room Releases)

August 4, 2020 - Dr. Amber Jennings, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the Herff College of Engineering, has been awarded $499,315 by the U.S. Department of Defense Military Burn Research Program (MBRP) for her research "Acylated electrospun biopolymer membranes for burn wound coverage, infection prevention and pain relief."

Co-Investigators on the project include Dr. Daniel Baker and Dr. Tomoko Fujiwara, associate professors in the UofM Department of Chemistry, and Dr. Joel Bumgardner, department chair and professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

"MBRP-funded projects explore innovative approaches to accelerate the translation of advances in knowledge into new standards of care for the treatment of injured service members and the general public at large who sustain burn injuries," said Dr. Rick Sweigard, dean of the Herff College of Engineering. "I am very excited that Dr. Jennings' research will have a positive impact on both the civilian and military communities."

Skin serves as a barrier to contaminating microorganisms that cause infection. Burned skin loses that barrier function, which increases the risk for life-threatening infection. The primary goal of burn wound treatments is reestablishing this barrier. Jennings' research proposes a novel, naturally derived material to form a breathable dressing that temporarily reestablishes wound coverage and serves as a barrier to microorganisms. The dressing material can be pre-loaded with pain-relieving therapies and antimicrobials to fight infection.

"Our proposed research will determine effects of the novel dressings on wound healing, prevention of infection and minimization of tissue damage," said Jennings. "The benefits of this therapy for both military and civilian patients include its non-opioid pain management strategy, infection preventative properties and healing advantages."

The therapeutic effects of the novel dressing could improve blood flow and tissue viability during early points in treatment to prevent damage to adjacent unburned tissue. The dressing is easily transportable and packaged for inclusion in medical toolkits or emergency supplies, making it easy to access at the time of injury. Once the dressing is applied, it is active for up to three days and may also be reapplied after wound cleaning and surgical procedures.