UofM’s Jennings receives DoD award to develop novel traumatic injury therapy

April 20, 2021 — Dr. Jessica Jennings, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the Herff College of Engineering, was recently awarded $268,156 from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for her project titled, “Development of acylated nanofibrous chitosan membranes for pre-hospital traumatic wound coverage, inhibition of infection and pain mitigation.”  Jennings’ research will focus on developing a novel wound dressing that offers sustained drug delivery for infection prevention and pain management in pre-hospital treatment for traumatic injuries.

Extremity wounds resulting from combat trauma present ongoing acute care challenges in both military and civilian populations. These traumatic wounds require rapid intervention after the injury to manage pain and minimize the risk of life-threatening infection. In military combat conditions, specialized hospital care for traumatic wound patients may be delayed for hours to days. Presently, no known treatment solutions are available to prevent infection while offering pain relief simultaneously. Jennings’ research will develop a novel, naturally derived material to form a breathable dressing that can be used immediately after an injury that serves as a barrier to microorganisms and delivers antimicrobials and anesthetics that prevent infection and manage pain.

“Current biomaterial-based therapies release most if not all of their therapeutics during the initial hours after application,” said Jennings, principal investigator (PI) on the project. “However, this novel wound dressing will allow for the sustained release of therapeutics for up to three days or until the patient arrives at a medical facility where specialized treatment for traumatic injuries can be administered.

“At the point of injury, the dressing, preloaded with local anesthetics, can be easily and quickly wrapped around or packed within the damaged tissue, facilitating self-application or use by non-medical personnel. The novel dressing material is easily transportable and packaged for inclusion in medical toolkits or emergency supplies, thus ready for use at the time of injury. The dressing or packing material may also be reapplied after wound cleaning and surgical procedures.”

Dr. Rick Sweigard, dean of the Herff College of Engineering, said, “The benefits of this significant therapy for both military and civilian patients include its non-opioid pain management strategy, infection preventative properties and healing advantages. I am extremely proud of Dr. Jennings’ research for the U.S. DoD which will positively impact our country’s health care system by improving health outcomes for both civilians and our dedicated Service men and women.” 

About the U.S. DoD Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP)

The intent of the Department of Defense PRMRP Discovery Award is to support innovative, non-incremental, high-risk/potentially high-reward medical research projects that will provide new insights, paradigms, technologies or applications. Relevance to the healthcare needs of military Service Members, Veterans, military beneficiaries, and/or the American public is a key feature of this award. The managing agent for the program is the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC).