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New materials

Bactericidal fiber

Mixture of sugar cane pulp and chitosan results in a fiber that has medicinal properties

EDUARDO CESARFrom the left: bagasse pulp, chitosan and the hybrid fiberEDUARDO CESAR

The possibilities of using sugar cane bagasse are expanding. One of the most recent is a textile fiber that has medicinal properties; it is made from the pulp extracted from bagasse and chitosan, a polymer produced from chitin, a substance extracted from the shells of crabs, shrimps, lobsters and other crustaceans. This combination has resulted in a fiber for use in dressings with healing properties, is a fungicide and bactericide , in addition to being comfortable and strong. The study, coordinated by Professor Adalberto Pessoa Junior, from the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, at the University of São Paulo (USP), was worked on by post-PhD student, Sirlene Maria da Costa, currently a researcher at the Institute of Technological Research (IPT), and chemical engineer, Silgia Aparecida da Costa, a professor on the Textile and Fashion course at the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities, at USP, who came up with the suggestion for the research after she had developed similar fibers using commercial pulp extracted from wood and chitosan.

“We want to create a technological textile fiber and from it build fabrics for manufacturing bandages and clothing for the physically handicapped, such as paraplegics, the elderly with limited mobility and patients who stay in bed a long time and are subject to the development of pressure ulcers on their skin,” says Silgia. “As our fiber helps in the healing process and in fighting bacteria and fungi, perhaps not all patients in the future will need to use ointments or have their wounds dressed.” According to the researcher, although much of the bagasse and cane straw is burned for generating electricity, there remains a surplus that can be transformed into this special textile fiber.

The project led to the development of a patent by USP’s Innovation Agency. Development of the fiber has already been finalized and now the physical, chemical and biological tests are being carried out. “We want to prove the strength of the fiber for making fabrics, mesh or other materials that have the capacity to absorb  moisture from the secretion of wounds and act as a bactericide and fungicide.”

Besides the hybrid fiber made with chitosan, other types of fiber are also being developed in which the inclusion of enzymes, such as lysozyme, found in the whites of eggs and that has antibacterial properties, and bromelain, an enzyme extracted from pineapple and able to clean wounds, are being tested. The expectation of the group is that  trials will be completed within a year, when the product would be ready for  manufacture on a pilot scale. “Our intention is to create an interest in companies in both the textile and pharmaceutical sectors to develop the technology,” says Silgia.

The projects
1.
Development of new regenerated pulp and chitosan-based textile fibers for medical applications (nº 06/56970-4); Type Regular Research Awards; Coordinator Silgia Aparecida da Costa – USP; Investment R$ 70,048.97 and US$ 17,356.00 (FAPESP)
2. Development of textile fibers from sugar cane bagasse pulp, with the incorporation of drugs and enzymes for medical applications (nº 07/53577-2); Type Regular Research Awards; Coordinator Adalberto Pessoa Júnior – USP; Investment R$ 90.787,33 (FAPESP)

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