The latest research published by the RSC points to the potential for graphene to be used in wound care. Detailing the mechanism by which graphene slices through the membranes of bacteria and absorbs their phospholipids, the research throws extra light on a potential use that has been often cited. Graphene band-aids may well become a means of fighting infection, showing graphene to be a versatile material with multiple applications.
With research in this area already covered by investingraphene the latest piece of research is applauded for its developed insight into the biochemical processes that occur. Ruhong Zhou, the researcher from IBM tasked with investigating the mechanism, explained that the research has implications beyond the design of novel antibiotics. Describing the future potential he suggested,
‘The easiest and most straightforward way is to use graphene or graphene oxide in a band-aid. So you combine graphene and graphene oxide nanosheets with cotton fabric and apply to wounds along with bandages,
The actual mechanism of this process was observed using transmission electron microscopy which revealed how the graphene slices through the inner and outer cell membranes of Escherichia coli bacteria. The phospholipids were then extracted due to a strong dispersion interaction between graphene and lipid molecules. It is argued that the physical nature of the slicing mechanism offers the advantage of prolonged effectiveness.
However, a word of caution regarding the results was sounded by Bart Hoogenboom of the London Centre for Nanotechnology.
‘As far as potential antibiotic design is concerned, it is slightly worrying that the mechanism appears to be rather independent of membrane composition, and can therefore also be toxic for healthy, non-bacterial cells in a host organism such as a human being… Such toxicity will be dependent on dose and on particle size, so it’s important not to infer that exposure to graphene is toxic per se.
As research continues, more information regarding the interaction between man and graphene will come to light. At present it is thought that graphene poses no threat to humans and other mammals because the nanosheets become clogged by serum proteins that the body secretes.