Empa researchers have developed cellulose membranes fitted with antimicrobial peptides to combat bacterial wound infections. Initial results indicate that the skin-friendly membranes made from plant-based materials very effectively kill bacteria.
If germs invade a wound, the researchers say, they can trigger a long-lasting infection that may fail to heal. It is spread throughout the body, leading to life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis). The problem of antibiotic resistance is becoming increasingly widespread, especially in complex wounds, as bacteria such as staphylococci have become resistant to what was once the medicine’s miracle weapon, they add. Empa researchers have therefore developed cellulose membranes, with which these infections can be eliminated early on.63
The team led by Empa researcher Katharina Maniura from the St. Gallen Laboratory of Bio-interfaces produced fine cellulose membranes using electrospinning technology. After the researchers added polymer polyurethane to the spinning process the membranes became particularly flexible and at the same time stable.
The researchers designed multi-functional peptides to achieve an antibacterial effect-which, they say, can bind to cellulose fibers and exhibit antimicrobial activity. If the cellulose membranes are treated with such a peptide solution, the fiber scaffold will become saturated with peptides. In cell culture experiments, the researchers then showed that the peptide-containing membranes are well tolerated by human skin cells. The cellulose membranes, however, were a death sentence for bacteria such as staphylococci, often found in poorly cured wounds. “In bacterial cultures, the peptide-containing membranes killed over 99.99 percent of the germs,” says Maniura.
In the future, additional functions will be provided for the antimicrobial membranes. For example, the peptides will be fictionalized with binding sites that allow the controlled release of additional therapeutic substances.
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