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The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » December 21, 2012
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Nanobiotechnology in the Treatmentof Burns
December 21, 2012   
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Many patients with serious burns die when their wounds become infected. They could be helped if effective, fast-acting and low-cost methods were developed to deal with this problem.

A team at the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Gdańsk and the Medical University of Gdańsk, led by Mariusz Grinholc, Ph.D., is analyzing the applications of photodynamic therapy and therapy based on the use of plant extracts to help patients with severe burn wounds.

“Burns and chronic wounds are serious injuries that can lead to a partial loss of tissue and tissue fluids,” says Grinholc. “They are often a source of infection and pain, and can lead to the death of the patient. Wound healing is a complex process that occurs in several stages, such as coagulation, inflammation, granulation, epithelium coating, collagen synthesis and tissue remodeling. The process remains the subject of numerous research papers.”

Severe wound infections in patients with burns are usually caused by common pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and fungi of the Candida genus—mainly Candida albicans, Grinholc says.

The research project at the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Gdańsk and the Medical University of Gdańsk involves the use of a murine burn wound model infected with methicillin-resistant strains of three pathogens.

The research focuses on stabilized wound infections, analyzed and visualized through bioluminescent imaging. The use of bioluminescent strains of microorganisms will make it possible to follow the development of infection in real time, Grinholc says. This method is an improvement over the traditional approach, which involves the sampling of the fluid and tissue from infected wounds, serial dilution of the sample, culture on a solid medium, and counting the units that form the colony.

The researchers are analyzing two alternative treatment options: photodynamic therapy (PDT) and treatment based on the use of plant extracts. In both these approaches, silver nanoparticles play a key role. The treatment uses silver nanoparticles, three innovative photosensitizers and promising plant extracts that have antimicrobial properties and support the healing process.

Photosensitizers are natural chemical compounds that, in combination with light and oxygen, can treat severe burns. This is a new approach because photodynamic therapy was up to now used primarily in the treatment of patients with cancer. The natural chemicals administered to the patient become toxic after they are excited with light of an appropriate wavelength. In this way, they generate the formation of free radicals, which oxidize the appropriate cell structures and thus lead to the destruction of the bacteria.

Biofilm is a natural barrier to photosensitizers and all other antimicrobial agents. It protects the microorganisms embedded in the biofilm. This is why the researchers are studying stabilized burn wounds covered with biofilm. They are searching for such combinations of photosensitizers and plant extracts that will effectively penetrate the biofilm and contribute to the healing process.

The most effective conditions for both types of treatment will be determined through in vitro studies to be carried out on plankton cultures and biofilm. “We believe that such an approach will allow us to optimize the treatment conditions and propose alternative or complementary therapeutic options in the treatment of burn wound infections,” says Grinholc.

The proposed method has many advantages. The doctor will be able to control the substance and apply it locally to obtain a precisely-targeted bactericidal effect. This makes it possible to avoid problems in the entire body, which is a common side effect of antibiotic treatment. Such a form of treatment can be used regardless of the patient’s age and health condition. What’s more, success in the treatment of burn wounds will enable the treatment of chronic wounds of various kinds, such as diabetic foot and lower leg ulcers. The financial aspect of the project is also important. Grinholc argues that the method his team have developed is cheap and laboratories and hospitals will be able to afford it.

Last year, Grinholc received zl.950,000 for his research from the National Center for Research and Development under its Lider (Leader) program. He is working together with Joanna Nakonieczna, Ph.D., Aleksandra Królicka, Ph.D., Aleksandra Taraszkiewicz, and Grzegorz Fila.

Karolina Olszewska
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