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Ca-Zn-Ag Alginate Aerogels for Wound Healing Applications: Swelling Behavior in Simulated Human Body Fluids and Effect on Macrophages

Keil, Claudia; Hübner, Christopher; Richter, Constanze; Lier, Sandy; Barthel, Lars; Meyer, Vera; Subrahmanyam, Raman; Gurikov, Pavel; Smirnova, Irina; Haase, Hajo

Chronic non-healing wounds represent a substantial economic burden to healthcare systems and cause a considerable reduction in quality of life for those affected. Approximately 0.5–2% of the population in developed countries are projected to experience a chronic wound in their lifetime, necessitating further developments in the area of wound care materials. The use of aerogels for wound healing applications has increased due to their high exudate absorbency and ability to incorporate therapeutic substances, amongst them trace metals, to promote wound-healing. This study evaluates the swelling behavior of Ca-Zn-Ag-loaded alginate aerogels and their metal release upon incubation in human sweat or wound fluid substitutes. All aerogels show excellent liquid uptake from any of the formulas and high liquid holding capacities. Calcium is only marginally released into the swelling solvents, thus remaining as alginate bridging component aiding the absorption and fast transfer of liquids into the aerogel network. The zinc transfer quota is similar to those observed for common wound dressings in human and animal injury models. With respect to the immune regulatory function of zinc, cell culture studies show a high availability and anti-inflammatory activity of aerogel released Zn-species in RAW 264.7 macrophages. For silver, the balance between antibacterial effectiveness versus cytotoxicity remains a significant challenge for which the alginate aerogels need to be improved in the future. An increased knowledge of the transformations that alginate aerogels undergo in the course of the fabrication as well as during wound fluid exposure is necessary when aiming to create advanced, tissue-compatible aerogel products.
Published in: Polymers, 10.3390/polym12112741, MDPI