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sheets of orange-tinted cotton bandage being peeled apart using tweezers, held by purple gloved hands, over a grey lab bench
Darcy Rose/Cornell University

Nanofiber Bandages Fight Infection, Speed Healing

Incorporation of plant-based compound into cotton bandages results in excellent antibacterial performance

by Cornell University
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Cornell University researchers have identified a new way to harness the antioxidant and antibacterial properties of a botanical compound to make nanofiber-coated cotton bandages that fight infection and help wounds heal more quickly.

The findings are especially important given the increasing prevalence of multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Cotton gauze is one of the most common wound dressings; it’s inexpensive, readily available, comfortable, and biocompatible. However, it doesn’t promote healing or fight infection.

“Cotton alone cannot provide an answer for these complications—it needs to be biofunctionalized,” said lead author Mohsen Alishahi, a doctoral student in fiber science who works in the NanoFibers and NanoTextiles (NanoFibTex) Laboratory.

Tamer Uyar, associate professor and the lab’s director, said one of its main research interests is developing functional fibers from sustainable materials and exploring their potential applications in medical textiles and drug delivery systems.

Researchers used lawsone, a red-orange compound found in henna leaves that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties, to boost the performance of cotton.

The experimental dressing had excellent antibacterial performance against gram-negative and gram-positive bacterial species, and effectively eradicated E. coli and staph bacteria in testing.

“The prolonged overuse of synthetic antibiotics in high concentrations has contributed to the rise of the deadly epidemic of multidrug-resistant microbes,” Uyar said. “So the use of natural and potent anti-bacterials such as lawsone may serve as an alternative to synthetic anti-bacterials.”

“Wound dressings should provide a suitable environment for facilitating healing and preventing infection,” Alishahi said. “Using totally natural materials such as cotton, cyclodextrin, and lawsone, this dressing can facilitate both as it has comprehensive antioxidant and anti-bacterial activity.”

Alishahi said that the dressing would be particularly helpful for chronic wounds that are highly susceptible to infection, like diabetic ulcers and burns. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties would also benefit more routine wounds by reducing the formation of scars.

- This press release was originally published on the Cornell University website