Bandages are an important barrier between the wound and the world. They prevent bacteria entering the body and causing infection. However, what about bacteria that have already found their way into a scratch? Introducing the bandage that's a total rip-off. It "sucks out" bacteria from a cut, allowing them to be removed along with the bandage.
The technology, in development at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, hasn't been tested on human skin yet, only on tissue-engineered skin models. The results can be seen in Applied Materials & Interfaces and Biointerfaces.
The bacterial species investigated included Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, both of which are known to cause chronic wound infection.
The bandage is created from a mesh of polymer filaments. Each strand is so fine that it is 100 times thinner than a human hair. They are made by squeezing the material out of an electrified nozzle in a technique called electrospinning.
When first tested on a film of S. aureus, a bacterium frequently found on the skin, the researchers found that the bacteria quickly attached to the bandage fibers. They then observed the bacteria's ability to bind to different widths of strand, finding that they had less success adhering to fibers that were smaller than the individual S. aureus cells themselves.
In a second test the strands were coated in different compounds. The researchers found that E. coli rapidly adhered to fibers coated with allylamine. It did not attach to fibers coated in acrylic acid.
The last stage of the research tested the bandage on skin models, in partnership with the University of Sheffield in the U.K., and although the results have not yet been published, they suggest that the bandage could function well on living tissue. .
Figure of creation, testing and results from electrospun bandage in Applied Materials & Interfaces. Martina Abrigo at al./Swinburne University of Technology.
This bandage technology might seem a bit unnecessary for your everyday playground scrapes, but for patients with compromised immune systems it's a desirable precaution. It has the potential to reduce the chance of infection in vulnerable patients whose immune systems need some backup. Likely candidates could include people with diabetes, AIDS or cancer as well as severe burns victims and patients in remote locations.
“For most people, wounds heal quickly. But for some people, the repair process gets stuck, and so wounds take much longer to heal. This makes them vulnerable to infection,” Martina Abrigo, an author of the study, said in a statement.
“We hope this work will lead to smart wound dressings that could prevent infections. Doctors could put a nanomesh dressing on a wound and simply peel it off to get rid of the germs.”
The bandage technology could have other related applications, for example in creating filters that don't let bacteria pass, protective clothing or scaffolds for growing tissue contamination-free. The next stage will be to test the bandages on human wounds, not just skin models.