Burns are defined as an injuries to the skin or tissue caused by heat. The heat can be from many different sources, some of which include chemicals, electricity or heat. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 195 000 deaths occur each year from fire burns alone, and more from scalds, electrical and other forms of burns. Of these deaths, South East Asia accounts for just over one-half of deaths. Thus, the efficient and effective treatment of burns is very important.
In treatment of burns, the heat needs to be quickly removed and the flesh cooled down to prevent the burn from travelling to the deeper skin layers and damaging more tissue; burned tissue continues to develop until the temperature drops. There are many different home therapies that are commonly used in the treatment of burns, such as applying butter, toothpaste or ice. However, instead of helping, these often actually worsen the damage.
Currently, the more accessible common methods for treating minor burns, include applying soothing lotions such as aloe vera, as well as by running cool sterile water over the burn, to reduce swelling and pain. However, these generally only work for first degree burns, reaching only the epidermis level of the skin.
Aluminaid, a medical device company head-quartered in Singapore, has created a burn dressing that quickly and effectively removes heat from first and second degree burns under a stable and sterile environment, needing only a few seconds to effectively cool down the flesh. These form-fitting dressings, made using aluminum, simply need to be applied onto a burn for it to begin working.
Rachel Lim speaks to Steve Carrol, the Chief Technical Officer of Aluminaid and to Professor Colin Song, an expert in dermatology and visiting consultant at the Singapore General Hospital, about the science behind this product and the future plans for it.
APBN: What is the science behind this product?
Steve Carrol: Aluminaid is based upon the optimization of the laws of physics in regard to the behavior of metals (heat transfer via conduction in this scenario) combined with the body's natural healing and molecular defense system. The product works by creating a path for molecules to transfer their energy (in this instance, the excessive thermal energy) outwards and away from the wound.
The Aluminaid substrate is specially designed (re-crystallized) to naturally withdraw heat from the burn and into the hydrogel backing attached to the substrate.
APBN: Why was aluminum chosen instead of other metals?
Steve Carrol: During our R&D process, aluminum and silver were among the top choices but aluminum met our overall requirement better. The three main reasons that affected our decision were:
- Performance beyond re-crystallization
- Malleability beyond re-crystallization, which also affects performance
- Cost to manufacture
APBN: What are the more common burn relief treatments and how is Aluminaid different from them?
Professor Colin Song: In modern burn care, we speak of partial or full thickness burns. Partial burns are further divided into superficial or deep dermal burns, depending on the depth that the thermal damage extends into the deeper layers of the skin. These wounds are treated by cleansing and then applying transparent polyurethane dressing over the burn wounds and sealing them. This dressing has dual functions:
It immediately relieves intense pain characteristic of partial thickness burn wounds
(It) allows constant surveillance of healing in the wounds without the need to perform painful removal of dressings. Wounds deemed not progressing well are then subject to surgical intervention such as ski grafting to expedite healing. This strategy has revolutionized burn wound care in pediatric patients so vulnerable to pain and emotional trauma
Aluminaid is a new technology to address the issue of cooling wounds immediately after thermal injury to limit (the) depth of the burn wound. Although theoretically may (also) serve as the initial burn wound dressing.
APBN: What are some limitations of this product?
Steve Carrol: Aluminaid serves to provide burn relief by removing excessive thermal energy through conduction. That said, it is unable to treat burns induced by electricity or chemicals.
APBN: Are there any side effects of the product?
Steve Carrol: No, Aluminaid has been extensively tested by approved GLP laboratories and there are no reported side effects.
APBN: What are the future plans for the product?
We're currently working with SIMTech (a research institute of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research) to develop a bio-active version of Aluminaid, which will assist in aiding tissue regeneration and eliminate scarring of tissue.
Aluminaid plans to have these products as over-the-counter home remedies that can be easily accessed and used by the public.
About the Interviewees
Steve Carroll is the Chief Technical Officer of Aluminaid and has over 25 years of experience in design, development, manufacturing, quality, distribution and sales. Having graduated with a MSc from Cambridge University, Steve has also won the prestigious "The Queen's Award" twice for designs that led to technological achievements of three worldwide best-selling products. In addition, he has developed over 100 products within the technology sector including high-security technology for Master's students abroad.
Professor Colin Song qualified as a Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1989. He served as Head of the Division of Plastic Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, University of Witwatersrand Teaching Hospitals and also ran a private practice in Johannesburg from 1990 to 1997.
Dr Song migrated to Singapore in 1997 and joined Singapore General Hospital as Director, Burn Centre. He served as Head of the Plastic Surgery Department from 2004 to 2012.
Over a span of 15 years at SGH, Dr Song performed more than 4500 surgeries, improved the survival rate of burn patients and held top positions in Societies and Associations related to his specialisation. He also implemented changes to the training system to follow that of the US residency program for all of Sing Health's hospitals.
Dr Song's main clinical interests include difficult wounds, head, neck and breast reconstructive surgery and aesthetic surgery. His research interests are in wound healing, tissue engineering of composite skin substitutes, small blood vessel and epidermal stem cell technology and the comprehensive approach to the ageing process.
Full bio: https://www.sgh.com.sg/Others/Pages/DoctorDetails.aspx?_id=e4a0287d-1bd5-402c-a831-d96c8abcb5b3&name=ColinSong&institute=SingaporeGeneralHospital
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