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Plastic-wrap-like nanosheets block infection from burn wounds

A new biomaterial clings to all the curves and wrinkles of the human body to help keep bacteria out of difficult-to-treat wounds.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

The nanosheets act like Saran Wrap for wounds. Yosuke Okamura

Polyester is often associated with disco-era clothing or modern technical fabrics, but the polymer now has a new use that could revolutionize the way burn wounds are treated. A team of researchers from Tokai University in Japan has developed an ultrathin coating called a nanosheet that can be placed over burn wounds to seal out dangerous bacteria.

The nanosheets are made from a biodegradable polyester. The polyester is placed in a test tube with water, spun into tiny pieces, and poured out onto a flat surface to dry as a super-thin sheet. What makes this an improvement over current treatments, such as bandages or sprays, is that it can conform to all the weird contours of the human body while creating an effective barrier against infection.

Yosuke Okamura led the team that created the material. "The nanosheets can adhere not only to flat surfaces, but also to uneven and irregular surfaces without adding any adhesives," Okamura says.

The coating has been tested on various materials, "including a metal needle and a mouse's fingers," says the statement on the American Chemical Society's site. It successfully and comprehensively covered the mouse's hand and then stayed in place. Tests on burns showed the nanosheets blocked the common bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which has been known to cause potentially deadly infections in hospitalized burn patients.

A single coating of the nanosheets blocked bacteria for three days, while a double coating worked for six days. The researchers are hoping to start human clinical trials after completing extensive safety tests. They will be presenting their findings at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society happening this week in San Francisco.