Because they often have weakened immune systems and/or blood flow restrictions, diabetics run a heightened risk of serious infection from even the smallest of open wounds. That's why a team of scientists from Egypt's Alexandria University have developed a means of getting those wounds to heal faster – silver-impregnated dressings.
The base of the dressing material is composed of nanofibers made from cellulose acetate – this is an inexpensive and easily-produced semisynthetic polymer used in cigarette filters, among many other things. As those fibers are being electro-spun, silver nanoparticles are added to them. Silver has well-known antibacterial qualities, although excessive amounts of the metal can be toxic.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
The resulting material is liquid- and air-permeable, so it draws fluids away from wounds but still protects them and allows them to breathe.
In lab tests performed on diabetic mice with open wounds, it was found that dressings made from the material killed bacteria while also accelerating collagen production in the skin, both of which resulted in faster healing times. Additionally, the strength and texture of tissue in the healed areas was more like that of normal skin than is typically case with healed wounds in diabetics.
A paper on the research was recently published in the International Journal of Nanoparticles.
Scientists at Stanford University have also developed a dressing for diabetics, which promotes healing by introducing a drug that increases the production of capillaries at wound sites.