Light-activated tissue sealing technology earns industry award

Deepanjan Ghosh, a biological design engineering graduate student, recently earned a 2020 Baxter Young Investigator Award for impactful research on a tissue repair and wound healing technology that prevents post-surgical complications and improves surgical outcomes.

Ghosh is a researcher in the Rege Bioengineering Lab, directed by Professor Kaushal Rege. The lab team works on developing new materials for improving human health, including new methods of tissue repair using nanoscale chemical interactions. Ghosh’s research centers on developing photothermal (light and heat) and immunomodulatory (modulating the immune system) biomaterials for soft tissue healing and repair.

“Although wound closure products like sutures, staples and tissue glues are clinical gold standards, each of them has its own inherent limitations,” Ghosh says. “The need for more efficacious wound closure and repair products is a big research push both in university and industry research labs.”

Ghosh learned about Rege’s research in light-activated tissue sealants even before he began his doctoral studies at ASU and joined Rege’s lab in 2016.

“The premise of sealing simple wounds using mild photothermal activation intrigued me and I applied to his lab and got accepted as a doctoral student,” Ghosh says.

He adds that Rege’s mentorship style has been helpful for focusing on “unmet clinical needs while also keeping in mind translational potential and pitfalls while developing projects.” Rege encouraged Ghosh through goal-oriented problem-solving, providing the freedom to explore various methods and technologies, collaborating with the Mayo Clinic and attending conferences to network with peers and industry personnel.

For the Baxter Young Investigator Awards, Ghosh submitted his research titled “Light-activated Sealants for Rapid Tissue Repair and Combating Surgical Site Infections.” This work proposes laser-activated tissue sealing as an alternative to sutures and staples and their shortcomings in tissue binding, which can lead to wounds re-opening and possibly getting infected. Light-absorbing dyes and nanoparticles called chromophores convert near-infrared laser light to heat, which integrates the sealant and tissue biomolecules to rapidly seal incisions.

Ghosh calls this light-activated tissue-integrating sutures, or LATIS. The latest version of LATIS presented in his research uses copper-loaded alginate (a polymer derived from seaweed) sutures because copper absorbs near-infrared laser light resulting in a robust photothermal response, which saccelerate wound repair and improves the tissue’s biomechanical strength.

Ghosh uses similar technology to develop light-activated wound dressings that deliver molecules that modulate the immune system to accelerate acute and diabetic wound healing.

Multinational health care company Baxter sponsors the annual Baxter Young Investigator Awards to recognize and promote innovative research by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that can be applied to the development of critical care solutions. Baxter’s work involves numerous products and therapies in clinical nutrition, acute therapies, medication delivery, pharmaceuticals, renal care and surgical care.

The Baxter Young Investigator Awards recognize high-quality research based on three criteria: displaying relevance to Baxter’s portfolio of medical products and therapies; demonstrating scientific excellence, creativity and novelty; and addressing unmet scientific or technological needs.

Award winners are chosen based on scientific merit in a two-tier structure. First-tier awards include a $3,000 prize and a visit to Baxter to present their research, while second-tier awards provide a $500 prize.

The Baxter Young Investigator Awards Committee says Ghosh’s application “stood out as exceptional and particularly relevant to [the company’s] mission” and earned him a second-tier award.

“I am really honored to receive a Baxter Young Investigator Award, especially at this stage in my research career,” Ghosh says. “It is great to have my research efforts in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine acknowledged by a global health care company, which shows the translational potential of our work and its relevance to their research focus.”

This award propels Ghosh into the final year of his doctoral studies at ASU, where he says he is looking forward to building on the work awarded by Baxter to translate light-activated sealant platform technology to nerve and vascular repair applications.

“Being recognized with this award provides motivation to further focus my research toward the unmet needs in this area,” Ghosh says.

A virtual award ceremony will be held November 12 to recognize the 2020 Baxter Young Investigator Award winners.