2023 Science, Technology and Environment

J. Vincent Edwards  

Developed innovative and highly effective new cotton-based medical gauze and dressings for trauma and chronic wound patients that are now in use by hospitals and first responders.

As a research chemist at the Department of Agriculture, Vincent Edwards has been a pioneer in developing improved cotton fabrics that promote the healing of chronic wounds, treat acute bleeding injuries, provide better incontinence protection and help prevent bedsores.  

“This remarkable scientist has opened up a whole new avenue of research and brought cutting-edge science to the healing of chronic wounds,” said Soheila Maleki, lead scientist with the Agricultural Research Service. “Vincent’s work has led to the production of many new products and bolstered the U.S. cotton industry.” 

An estimated 6 million Americans suffer from chronic wounds and 25 million from incontinence, while half of all deaths on the battlefield are caused by uncontrolled hemorrhages. 

Maleki said Edwards created the first new cotton-based wound gauze for trauma care in 50 years, while his new cotton dressing has been a significant breakthrough to treat chronic wounds. Both enable better wound clotting and faster healing than other products, she said. 

In addition, Maleki said Edwards’ nonwoven cotton fabric technology is now used in diapers, hygienic pads and pressure ulcer devices.  

Over the years, Edwards has worked closely with numerous companies to obtain patents and regulatory approvals for his cutting-edge medical products and assisted in the manufacturing processes. 

“His research has had a tremendous impact on the medical community,” said Archie Tucker, a regional director for the Agricultural Research Service. “The cotton products he developed are helping our military veterans, people in hospitals, infants and others.”  

New wound gauze to help control bleeding 

One major breakthrough involved Edwards’ collaboration with H&H Medical Corp. to develop a manufacturing process for his new wound gauze that produced the right blend of cotton to effectively control bleeding. The result was TACgauze™, a product now used by first responders that is being considered as a wound dressing technology for prolonged field care by the Marine Corps. 

“This product has enhanced lifesaving potential for wound victims by controlling bleeding more quickly and effectively,” said Paul Harder, the former president of H&H Medical. “Vincent’s research and expertise helped us develop and market this product.”  

Edwards said he wrote a research paper on the new wound gauze, received a phone call from the company and “things started blossoming from there.” He compared the experience to the movie “Field of Dreams.” 

“It was like, ‘if you build it, they will come,’” he said. 

From farm to market 

In addition to developing the new gauze, Edwards worked with cotton farmers and regulatory experts to develop a Food and Drug Administration-approved cotton dressing for chronic wounds. 

“He developed a charged type of cotton that can selectively pull out destructive enzymes in chronic ulcers to promote healing,” said Robert Diegelmann, a professor emeritus at the Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine. “He is very imaginative and innovative, and has taken his knowledge of cotton fibers and applied modifications to help create new wound dressings.” 

Edwards also engineered cotton fabrics that remove moisture from the body to help reduce friction with the patient’s skin. These fabrics are used to improve hospital bed sheets as well as diapers, incontinence pads and sanitary pads, Maleki said. 

Edwards said it has been rewarding to create products that fill an unmet health care need while also helping boost the agricultural industry, calling it a “farm to market story.” 

“I love the idea of marrying concepts at the cutting edge of wound healing science and cotton to help bring cotton into the 21st century,” Edwards said. “It is inspiring when you realize that what you are developing can be useful and unique enough to also be commercial.”