To some, nanotechnology sounds new and exciting; to others it sounds threatening. However, the truth is that nanotechnology is already with us. Indeed, wound management is actually one clinical application that has so far gained most from this technology.
We are all familiar with the use of silver as an antimicrobial agent in wound care. However, nanocrystalline silver, an increasingly popular formulation, is part of the nanotechnology revolution. Nanocrystalline silver consists of silver particles that are only several nanometers in diameter. The formation of such tiny particles greatly increases the available surface area compared to bulk silver, and dramatically changes its properties. Silver nanoparticles have been shown to have many beneficial properties for wound management, including activity against Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, antifungal activity, and even anti-inflammatory properties.
Another potential use of nanotechnology includes the delivery of nitric oxide (NO) radicals. Although NO radicals exhibit effective antimicrobial activity, they have not previously been used in wound management because they are so reactive they are difficult to store. Using nanotechnology, however, it is possible to trap NO radicals stably within a dry matrix; from where they can be released over an extended period and at a relatively fixed concentration.3 The potential of NO-nanoparticles in wound management has been demonstrated in numerous animal studies,4-6 suggesting that this technology may ultimately offer an effective alternative in the treatment of wound infections.
Finally, nanofibers also exhibit properties that may be beneficial in burn care, including a large surface-area-to-volume ratio, high porosity, improved cell adherence, and controlled in vivo degradation rates. As a result, nanofiber scaffolds have immediate applications as dressings for burn wounds, and significant potential in drug delivery. Nanofiber scaffolds may eventually be able to create an unlimited supply of durable tissue engineered skin for large burn wounds.
Nanotechnology is already here. Its benefits in wound management have been demonstrated with the use of nanocrystalline silver, and other applications are just around the corner.
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- Cortivo R, Vindigni V, Iacobellis L, et al. Nanoscale particle therapies for wounds and ulcers. Nanomedicine (Lond). 2010;5(4):641-656.
- Tian J, Wong KKY, Ho C, et al. Topical delivery of silver nanoparticles promotes wound healing. ChemMedChem. 2007;2(1):129-136.
- Englander L, Friedman A. Nitric oxide nanoparticle technology: a novel antimicrobial agent in the context of current treatment of skin and soft tissue infection. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(6):45-50.
- Friedman AJ, Han G, Navati MS, et al. Sustained release nitric oxide releasing nanoparticles: characterization of a novel delivery platform based on nitrite containing hydrogel/glass composites. Nitric Oxide. 2008;19(1):12-20.
- Martinez LR, Han G, Chacko M, et al. Antimicrobial and healing efficacy of sustained release nitric oxide nanoparticles against Staphylococcus aureus skin infection. J. Invest. Dermatol. 2009;129(10):2463-2469.
- Han G, Martinez LR, Mihu MR, et al. Nitric oxide releasing nanoparticles are therapeutic for Staphylococcus aureus abscesses in a murine model of infection. PLoS ONE. 2009;4(11):e7804.
- Hromadka M, Reed C, Han L, et al. Nanofiber Technology for Burn Care. J Burn Care Res. 2008. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18695622 [Accessed December 7, 2010].