Made from a new material developed by a team of surgeons, engineers and biochemists in Oxford, the ‘smart patch’ promotes rapid regrowth of damaged tissue ensuring the injury heals more quickly and more successfully.
Andy Carr, an Oxford University Hospitals surgeon and Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Oxford, led the development of the patch designed to repair damage to the rotator cuff, the group of tendons and muscles that controls movement of the shoulder.
More than 10,000 rotator cuff repairs are performed in the UK each year (more than 300,000 are performed in the US), and researchers have found that between 25 per cent and 50 per cent will fail to heal properly.
Carr said the failure rate of surgery was due to the fact that the body was failing to repair properly after surgery. To improve the outcomes of surgery, the team have designed a material that mimics the normal environment that cells require in order to mount a successful repair.
“The key to the new patch is creating a composite of two material layers. One layer is a very fine “nanoscale” synthetic mesh that is recognised by cells and which promotes growth of new tissue,” Carr said. “Our patch provides the physical cues needed for normal growth and development. “However, because this fine mesh is relatively flimsy, a second woven layer of thicker strands is bonded to it to provide strength. “This stronger layer means the scaffold can be sutured in position by a surgeon. It also protects the repair during the six to eight weeks required for tissue healing,” Carr said.