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New Gauze, Coatings Improve Medical Uses of Cotton

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
August 23, 1999

Bedsores and other chronic wounds may heal faster, thanks to new gauze bandages being developed by scientists with the Agricultural Research Service and Virginia Commonwealth University. The team reported on their work yesterday in New Orleans at the 218th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, held Aug. 22 to 26.

ARS scientists led by chemist J. Vincent Edwards developed a method to chemically modify cotton gauze so it helps reduce the amount of a natural enzyme, elastase, in the wound area. Edwards works at the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans.

Elastase can slow and even prevent healing of some wounds. Normally, the body produces enough natural inhibitors to offset the enzyme. But in chronic skin ulcers common to long- term hospital patients, elastase can build to more than 20 times normal levels. The new bandages appear to deactivate elastase, returning it to normal concentrations at the wound site.

At the ACS meeting, other scientists from the ARS research center in New Orleans gave updates on improved cotton products for medical uses including:

  • Hospital gowns, bedpads and other fabrics coated with polyethylene glycols should soon be commercially available. The coating imparts antimicrobial benefits and improves absorbency. Private companies plan to introduce products within the next few years, based on patented, licensed technology developed by ARS chemist Tyrone L. Vigo. A detailed story on this research is on the web at:


  • Superabsorbent gauze created with a new process developed by ARS chemist D.V. Parikh retains textile properties like stretchability and can be used with burn patients. Parikh is also applying the process to cotton fibers to create the core of incontinence pads that will be thinner, lighter and more absorbent than pads now available.

ARS is the lead scientific agency for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: J. Vincent Edwards, Tyrone L. Vigo and D.V. Parikh; ARS Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, La.; phone (504) 286-4521; fax (504) 286-4271;,,

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