Cotton: A Body Armor for Wounds?
By Don Comis
February 27, 2008
Cotton fabrics that might save
lives on the battlefieldand make people more comfortable in hospital
bedsare being developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.
Vincent Edwards at the
Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La., is testing
specially-treated cotton fabrics that might someday be made into military
uniforms and gauze pads that can staunch bleeding, prevent infections and
promote healing. His fabrics can also be made into hospital sheets that are
highly absorbent, smooth, soft and antibacterial, to treat or even prevent bed
To impart antibacterial and blood-clotting properties, Edwards uses
chitosan, a carbohydrate in shrimp shells. He has developed a technique to more
uniformly distribute the chitosan in cotton fabric, compared with the
chitosan-treated cotton gauze pads currently on the market. This innovation
should lead to more effective cotton wound dressings and improved high-tech
The work builds on Edwards' previous invention of a treated cotton gauze pad
that also promotes healingeven of deep and painful bed sores.
Paradoxically, although the body rushes protease enzymes to such wound sites to
promote healing, sending too many of them can create excess inflammation and
actually prevent healing. Edwards achieved the healing effect by treating gauze
pads with negatively charged phosphoric acid, which pulls positively charged
excess proteases out of a wound. His research has shown that the improved gauze
dressings may also attract protein-building macrophages necessary for skin to
Tissue Technologies of Richmond, Va., has the licensing rights to the
ARS-patented, protease-absorbing technology and has sublicensed it to a
manufacturer and marketer. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration approved the gauze bandage in 2006.
more about the research in the February 2008 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.