Science & Research

Dr. Song Liu

BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012

Dr. Song Liu wants to make that old saying "like ripping off a bandage" a phrase of the past.

Liu isn't a medical doctor. He is a textile engineer and an assistant professor who has established the University of Manitoba's Medical Textile Surface Engineering Laboratory in its Department of Textile Sciences at the Faculty of Human Ecology. And he is developing a better bandage to be used for burn victims and other patients suffering from painful wounds that are susceptible to infections.

Studies show the pain caused by removing burn dressings is related to severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. So Liu has engineered a new kind of polyester bandage that has hydrogel - a moisturizing compound - chemically bonded to its fibres to prevent it from sticking to the wound.

"Hydrogel isn't new, but the major innovation here is I can grow hydrogel with well-controlled thickness from the fibres of flexible knit fabrics to retain the flexibility of the dressing. A good dressing must be flexible to conform to the contour of the body," he says.

Liu has proven the bandage is effective in the lab, and the next step is to demonstrate its effectiveness in animal tests. If successful, the bandage could be used in hospitals, burn wards and wound clinics treating people with diabetes who have hard-to-heal skin ulcers. Liu says what makes the dressing unique is the infusion of two known antimicrobial agents - N-chloramine, used in swimming pools, and quaternary ammonium salt, found in hand soaps. But he says his work extends beyond bandages. In fact, his broader ambition is making hospitals less prone to spreading infection, one surface at a time.

Using similar innovative chemical engineering techniques, he aims to infuse antimicrobial properties into just about every surface in a hospital setting, from privacy curtains to countertops.

At the same time, he says he is also working on developing more biocompatible synthetic materials for vascular grafting - used in surgeries like cardiac bypasses - which will last longer, lead to less scarring and reduce the risk of rejection.

Wave: November / December 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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