In the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers often suffer shrapnel wounds and burns as a result of improvised explosive device blasts.
But other threats - bacteria, viruses and fungi - linger in the air and soil. Contact with the soldiers' broken skin can lead to debilitating and potentially life-threatening infections.
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With the goal of developing a treatment that can be applied to soldiers' wounds at battle zones and hospitals to prevent infections, the U.S. Department of Defense allocated a $1.5 million grant to researchers at the University of Michigan and the NanoBio Corporation, the university announced Tuesday.
Researchers at the university's Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences and the Ann Arbor-based NanoBio Corp., a biopharmeceutical company, will use the money to study the effects of nanoemulsion-based therapies on curbing wound and burn infections in combat situations.
"A broadly effective nanoemulsion-based wound treatment that can be safely and easily applied at the time of injury, without causing pain or interfering with wound healing, would have great value to prevent infection, increase survival and enable more rapid healing of wounded United States military personnel," Dr. James R. Baker, the principal investigator for the grant, said in prepared remarks.
Nanoemulsions are made up of soybean oil, alcohol, water and surfactants emulsified into droplets 200 to 600 nanometers in diameter, according to the release. Research shows that nanoemulsions are effective in combating various bacteria and viruses.
The two research entities will develop 10 new nanoemulsion formulations against bacteria, fungi and spores in lab culture studies. The formulations will then be studied on animals for safety and effectiveness before moving on to human trials.
Nanoemulsions have shown promising results in other aspects of health care. The application of nanoemulsions for the treatment of cold sores is currently undergoing phase 3 clinical trials. Nanoemulsions have also been studied to treat cystic fibrosis infections and develop vaccines against influenza and bioterrorism agents.
The $1.5 million grant will be distributed to the University of Michigan and NanoBio Corp. over a three-year period.