The Nanosheet

Tokia University researchers have developed a nanosheet material that clings to irregular skin and keeps out infectious bacteria (Photo: Yosuke Okamura). Even with advances in gels and dressings, burns remain a difficult injury to treat. This applies particularly to parts of the body where the skin bends around bones and joints, creating surfaces unfavorable to most types of bandaging. But researchers from Japan’s Tokai University have developed a new ultra-thin material that clings to those trickier locations, serving to ward off infectious bacteria. 

The researchers liken the material as akin to cling wrap in its ability to adhere to not only flat surfaces without any adhesives, but also irregular surfaces that can be prone to dog-eared Band-Aids and curling gauze.

Beginning with a biodegradable polyester called poly (L-lactic acid), or PLLA, the team put the material in a water-filled test tube and proceeded to spin it around. This caused the material to break into smaller pieces and then overlap once the liquid was poured out onto a flat surface. As the contents dried, the broken fragments meshed together to form the single nanosheet.

The team then observed how effectively the nanosheet could stick to uneven surfaces, applying it to objects such as a metal needle and a mouse’s finger. They found that the material coated the entire surface, including smaller wrinkles on the mouse’s fingers. It then investigated the ability of the material to protect burns from infection, finding it to repel Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogen often responsible for skin and hospital acquired infections. 

The nanosheets safeguarded against infection for three days, an additional coating stretching this out to six. The researchers are hopeful that the material could change the way burns are treated, both as a means of better preventing infection and reducing the amount of times a dressing needs to be changed. The team is now planning large-scale animal and safety tests.

The team’s research will be presented at a meeting of the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) between August 10 and 14.