Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nitric Oxide wound wrap

Kenneth Balkus and Harvey Liu of the University of Texas have invented a nitric oxide (NO) releasing bandage. Their wrap consists of three components: NO, Zeolite A, and a polyactic acid (PLA) polymer.

NO is well known to promote wound healing and to preserve organs prior to donation. Although too much NO can be toxic, too little can cause problems such as ischemia, in which blood flow to organs is reduced or eliminated. Therefore, additional NO can help diabetics, who have notoriously poor blood flow in their extremities, as well as preserving organs slated for transplant.

Zeolites are porous crystals made of aluminum and silicate. Known as molecular sieves, synthetic zeolites can be used to sift molecules by size. Although zeolites do occur in nature, they are rarely pure enough for laboratory use. Zeolite A is cubic, forming a cage within which NO can be held for transport and delivery.

The final part of the triad is the bandage itself, which is made of PLA. PLA is a water-repellent polymer and is both biocompatible and biodegradable. It is made via a process called ‘electrospinning’, in which a droplet of polymer is stretched using high voltage.

The researchers combined the PLA fiber with NO-infused Zeolite A. So far, the scientists have shown that their novel bandages can release controlled amounts of NO, and that the wraps successfully increased blood flow in rat hearts. If further studies are also positive, the new wrap could be used to protect organs prior to donation, as well as to make socks for diabetic patients.

A scrap of the therapeutic NO-releasing bandage