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Bioengineered Glove Offers New Kind Of Healing For Hand Wounds

The REHEAL Glove was developed to promote faster healing of hand injuries.

The human hand is complex, made up of 27 bones connected by joints and ligaments. The hand is also delicate and vulnerable, meaning hand injuries are common and hard to heal. A new tool developed at the University of Texas at Arlington is changing the hand-healing game.

Muthu Wijesundara leads the Biomedical Technologies Division at the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute. His team of researchers has designed a bioengineered 'healing glove' aimed at speeding up and improving the quality of healing in hand injuries.

Interview Highlights

On what the glove does:

"One of the biggest problems you see when somebody has a hand wound comes from wrapping the wound and immobilizing the joints. If you immobilize a joint after the wound heals you have a lot of scar tissue forming in the wound. Once the scar tissue is there, your hand cannot move or function as it did before the injury. 

So what we trying to do involves a glove-type of wound healing device. When we apply this negative pressure wound therapy, the glove is flexible enough that you can move your fingers back and forth while the wound is healing.

Once we can do that you can create the new tissues or heal tissues to be more or less similar to the ones that you had before the wound happened."

On negative pressure wound therapy and delivering therapeutics:

"Basically we have suction port in the glove to get the wound fluid out, and there are separate ports you can deliver therapeutics to the wound environment.

If you see wounds getting worse or the bacterial growth is there you can deliver antibacterial or other kinds of therapeutic agents, like stem cells or other kinds of cellular metrics, to help the wound heal."

On the kind of wounds the glove would work best on:

"Typically, complex wounds, not like you know just clean cut or something. We do have good wound healing techniques for those kind of wounds.

But if you have a very complex, basically messed up hand, you know tissue is lost, your tendons are lost, but if you apply this glove and do the motion therapy while the wound is healing, then we are thinking that we possibly can create the better tissues that are compliant, more or less similar to what you have before the injury."

On how the glove could change things:

"It's huge, because if you look at CDC data, about 11% of ER visits are related to hand injuries, and the majority of them involve complex wounds.

Most of the time we know how to heal the wounds, but we don't know how the restore the function of the hand. There is a whole lot of rehabilitation. For example, if you look at a burned hand, after the wound heals, you see the wound totally healed, but you see a lot of scar tissue — you cannot move your fingers — and those kind of scenarios are the ones that we can help by using this glove." 

Muthu Wijesundara leads the Biomedical Technologies Division at the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute. 

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.