A burn bandage that speeds up healing. It is made from corn, soy, and apple peel

Written By Mark

The Smart Materials Research Group at the Italian Institute of Technology has developed a bandage made of plant materials, loaded with vitamin C, and can speed up the healing process of burn wounds.

The affected area after a burn usually experiences redness and swelling as a result of inflammation, and this is a natural defense mechanism for the body. However, excessive inflammation can lead to the opposite effect of generating oxygen free radicals, a process known as “oxidative stress,” which hinders the healing process.

To address this concern, researchers have created a biocompatible bandage that is able to prevent an excessive increase in the level of inflammation, reduce the number of free radicals, and thus shorten the time required for healing. Moreover, it decomposes naturally within a few days, reducing concerns about generating more waste.

How to make?

The bandage, whose details were revealed by the researchers in a study published in the journal ACS Applied BioMaterials, is made of biodegradable materials and consists of a protein sourced from corn, “zein,” and the sugar “pectin,” which is found in the peels of many fruits such as apples, and the compound “lecithin.” Available in soy.

In the study, the researchers described the manufacturing steps as follows:

  • Preparation of the polymer solution: After preparing zein protein (from corn), pectin sugar (from apple peels) and lecithin (from soy), these substances are dissolved in a solvent to form a homogeneous polymer solution.
  • Adding the therapeutic substance “Vitamin C”: Vitamin C is incorporated into the polymer solution, ensuring that the vitamin is evenly distributed within the solution, to allow it to be released uniformly into the final product.
  • Electrospinning of vitamin-laden solutionsAfter adding vitamin C to the solution, it is placed in a syringe equipped with a needle, then the syringe is connected to a high-voltage power source (usually in the range of 10 to 30 kilovolts), which creates the electric field necessary for electrospinning, and there is a rotating cylinder to collect the nanofibers while weaving them.
  • Immersion in a solution of calcium ionsAfter the nanofibers are formed, they are immersed in a solution containing calcium ions, which helps bind the nanofiber components and give them a “hydrogel”-like behavior, enhancing the structural integrity and stability of the bandage.

Promising results

The porous fabric of this bandage allows the gradual release of vitamin C, stabilizing inflammation levels and reducing the production of free radicals. The researchers proved the product’s compatibility with human cells, which is an essential characteristic that determines the possibility of its future use in humans, through laboratory tests conducted on “keratinocytes”, which are the cells that make up the skin.

Laboratory tests showed a decrease in four biomarkers that indicate inflammation, namely the levels of three main molecules: interleukin IL-1β and IL-6, as well as tumor growth factor TNF-α, as they all decreased by 30 to 50% in the presence of… The bandage compared to the situation when it was not in place.

Moreover, the same comparison revealed a 50-70% reduction in the number of oxygen free radicals, and finally an increase in the production of collagen, an important molecule in skin healing processes, was observed, along with an increase in fibroblasts, which are cells involved in wound repair.

To verify the validity of these results, a series of pre-clinical tests were conducted on experimental mice, and demonstrated the product’s ability to reduce inflammation, which prompted the researchers to say in a press release issued by the institute: “All this evidence combined to highlight the effectiveness of the bandage in accelerating the healing process from “Burns.”

The research team seeks to go beyond using materials of natural origin only, and the researcher at the “Smart Materials Laboratory” at the Italian Institute of Technology, Fabrizio Fiorentini, says in the statement: “What we did in that study is the beginning, but the next goal will be to create a product.” Very similar, but using materials derived from food waste in order to meet the concept of a circular economy.”

“This is just one of the possible applications for this class of smart materials, and we are working on other innovations capable of accelerating healing, not only for burns, but also for various other types of wounds,” says Athanasia Athanasiou, the lead researcher participating in the study from the Smart Materials Laboratory. Wounds such as lacerations or skin ulcers.

Researcher in the Smart Materials Laboratory at the Italian Institute of Technology, Fabrizio Fiorentini, is working on the new bandage (Italian Institute of Technology)

Missing balance between environmental and medical

In a telephone conversation with Al Jazeera Net, the founding director of the Nanoscience Program at Zewail City of Science and Technology, Ibrahim El-Sherbiny, praises the environmental dimension that the research team followed in its study, but he believes that the team should have paid more attention to the medical dimension.

Al-Sherbini, who published a study about a bandage for treating wounds about eight years ago in the same journal in which the Italian team announced its achievement, says: “The environmental dimension in this work is very important, but it should not come at the expense of the medical dimension.”

He added: “I understand the research team’s keenness to use plant sources to produce the bandage and provide the active ingredient vitamin C, but if this approach alone would achieve the limited results in effectiveness that the researchers mentioned in their study, then it was necessary to work on searching for other sources that increase the effectiveness.”

El-Sherbiny considered that the percentage of decrease in vital indicators indicating inflammation is unsatisfactory, as well as the percentage of decrease in the number of oxygen free radicals. He said: “These results do not reflect the occurrence of complete healing, and if we know that the duration of the effectiveness of the bandage on the wound is only 3 days, as stated in the study.” “What will the situation be like after that period?”

El-Sherbiny also points out that what the researchers mentioned, that the bandage will dissolve automatically because it is made of biological materials, may be a negative factor, and requires further testing, because the materials from which the bandage is made, although they are natural materials, their melting in the wound area may lead to Change in pH, which negatively affects treatment.

He concluded his comment by noting that the environmental dimension of the study is important, but it must be balanced with the medical dimension by searching for other natural materials, or combining more than one material to achieve better results in effectiveness.