Wound Dressing Made of Diamonds!

Diamond silk fibers forming porous membranes, shown in bluish green color, with the golden-brown color showing the skin cell growth on the membrane Credit: RMIT University

Researchers at RMIT University have found an unlikely solution for preventing wound infections – a diamond-studded silk wound dressing that can detect infections and improve healing.

Diamonds are much more than just a girl’s best friend. According to researchers the gem also possesses many scientific properties, such as detecting temperatures with high precision. Making use of this property, Dr. Asma Khalid at RMIT University has discovered a smart wound dressing technology that combines silk and diamonds.

Wound infection is a common healthcare challenge faced by clinicians globally. A dressing, therefore, provides a healing environment and protects the wound. However, removing a dressing to constantly monitor for healing and signs of inflammation can be extremely painful for the patient. 

Traditional wound management presents a significant challenge for clinicians, who have to regularly check for infection by looking for signs of redness, heat and swelling. However, once these visual signs appear, inflammation and infection are far advanced, making therapies or interventions substantially more challenging.

Professor Brant Gibson, senior researcher

Diamond-Studded Silk for Wound Dressing

Heat, or ‘calor’, is one of the signs of infection and inflammation, thus, making temperature a significant wound biomarker. However, putting a thermometer next to the skin, at the site of injury, is not the most viable way to check for an infection.

Researchers have found an unlikely solution to this dilemma – a wound dressing made of nanodiamonds and silk. 

They found that negatively charged Nitrogen ions, when added to the nanodiamonds, caused the tiny crystals to emit red light on exposure to green-light lasers. The red-light emissions increased with a rise in temperature between 77- and 122-degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the temperature sensitivity of the nanodiamonds was found accurate to a fraction of a degree.

Diamond silk fibres of wound dressing shown in bluish green colour, with the golden-brown colour representing the skin cell growth on the membrane.
Diamond silk fibers are electrospun to form porous membranes, shown in bluish-green color, with the golden-brown color representing the skin cell growth on the membrane. Credit: RMIT University/colorized by Daniel Oldfield

By embedding nanodiamonds into silk fibers using an electrospinning process, we’ve been able to develop a naturally derived wound dressing that can sense infections.

Dr. Asma Khalid, co-author

The scientists used silk for the dressing material due to its ability to let oxygen pass freely. Furthermore, silk’s transparency allows nurses to see the diamond’s light at exposure to green-light lasers, but not white light. 

To avoid the nanodiamonds from rubbing against the wound, researchers embedded them deep inside the silk fibers.

Antibacterial Properties of the Wound Dressing

The silk-nanodiamond hybrid has shown additional properties that can further improve wound healing. Other than a heat-sensing ability, the wound dressing also exhibited antibacterial properties towards skin infection-causing bacteria such as P. aeruginosa and E. coli.

While diamonds sound like an expensive solution for wound infections, Dr. Asma clarified she uses an artificial diamond powder that is cost-effective even when treating large wounds.

The authors of the study believe the multifunctional wound dressing is highly suitable for reducing wound infections while allowing the free flow of oxygen and nutrients through the fibrous membrane.

Reference:

Khalid, Asma, et al. “Electrospun Nanodiamond–Silk Fibroin Membranes: A Multifunctional Platform for Biosensing and Wound-Healing Applications.” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2020, doi:10.1021/acsami.0c15612

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