Scientists have made an antibacterial gel bandage using the discarded husks of durian, a tropical fruit. Durian has a thick husk with spiky thorns that is discarded, while the sweet flesh surrounding the seeds on the inside is considered a delicacy.
By extracting high-quality cellulose from the durian husks and combining it with glycerol — a waste byproduct from the biodiesel and soap industry — the scientists created a soft gel, similar to silicon sheets, that can be cut into bandages of various shapes and sizes. They then added the organic molecules produced from baker’s yeast known as natural yeast phenolics, making the bandage deadly to bacteria.
Conventional hydrogel patches are commonly available at pharmacies, usually used to cover wounds from surgery to minimize the formation of excessive scar tissue, resulting in a softer and flatter scar. The patch keeps the skin hydrated instead of drying up when conventional gauze bandages are used.
The conventional hydrogel patches are made from synthetic materials such as polymers like polymethacrylate and polyvinylpyrrolidine. Those with antimicrobial properties also use metallic compounds such as silver or copper ions. Such synthetic materials approved for use in biomedical applications are more costly as compared to the new hydrogel made from natural waste materials.
Waste products that are currently discarded in large quantities — durian husks and glycerol — could be turned into a valuable biomedical resource that can enhance the speedy recovery of wounds and reduce chances of infections. With the husk comprising 60% of the durian, it is usually discarded and incinerated, posing an environmental issue. Being non-toxic and biodegradable, the organic gel bandage is also expected to have a smaller environmental footprint than conventional synthetic bandages.
The natural yeast phenolics embedded in the new bandage will help to prevent the growth of bacteria such as Gram-negative E. coli and Gram-positive S. aureus and the subsequent formation of biofilms (a layer of slime that can lead to antimicrobial resistance within a bacteria colony). The hydrogel bandage is applied by simply laying it across the wound, just as with existing commercially available silicone gel sheets for wound dressing.
Organic hydrogels are also useful for wearable, flexible, and stretchable electronics. Wearable electronics can consist of small sensors that detect heart rate and physical activities, much like current smart bands. They could aid healthcare workers in monitoring the health of the elderly in remote communities.