Chronic, non-healing, dermal wounds form a worldwide medical problem with limited and inadequate treatment options and high societal burden and costs. With the advent of regenerative therapies exploiting extracellular matrix (ECM) components, its efficacy to augment wound healing is to be explored. This systematic review was performed to assess and compare the current therapeutic efficacy of ECM hydrogels on dermal wound healing. The electronic databases of Embase, Medline Ovid, and Cochrane Central were searched for in vivo and clinical studies on the therapeutic effect of ECM-composed hydrogels on dermal wound healing (April 13, 2021). Two reviewers selected studies independently. Studies were assessed based on ECM content, ECM hydrogel composition, additives, and wound healing outcomes, such as wound size, angiogenesis, and complications. Of the 2102 publications, 9 rodent-based studies were included while clinical studies were not published at the time of the search. Procedures to decellularize tissue or cultured cells and subsequently generate hydrogels were highly variable and in demand of standardization. ECM hydrogels with or without additives reduced wound size and also seem to enhance angiogenesis. Serious complications were not reported. To date, preclinical studies preclude to draw firm conclusions on the efficacy and working mechanism of ECM-derived hydrogels on dermal wound healing. The use of ECM hydrogels can be considered safe. Standardization of decellularization protocols and implementation of quality and cytotoxicity controls will enable obtaining a generic and comparable ECM product.
Impact statementExtracellular matrix (ECM)-based hydrogels are biocompatible and harbor growth factors that can instruct tissue healing. Their application is a novelty in (pre)clinical wound healing treatment. This systematic review provides an overview of the current evidence for ECM hydrogels in enhancing wound healing and an extensive overview of the decellularization procedures used. Lastly, challenges and future directions to standardize decellularization procedures and implement quality controls are proposed.