Heavily injured patients in hospitals around the world all have a common enemy in their precarious condition, namely bacterial agents. Strains of microorganisms such as the MRSA can easily invade a person with a weakened immune system, and cause widespread internal damage, or even death. In their struggle to hinder the action of these pathogens, experts from the Northwestern University have come to realize, in their studies, that the compound insulin, which is administered to diabetes sufferers, also has a beneficial effect against bacteria, by fighting infection and helping heal wounds.
Furthermore, the science team at the NU has also announced recently that it has devised a novel method of transporting the substance to any specific location within the body, and of releasing it over time, rather than in a single dose. In a paper published online in the July 26th issue of the journal Biomaterials, they show that nanodiamond-insulin clusters are highly effective in reducing inflammation risks and healing times. They also reveal that the new materials can be safely implemented into existing medical supplies, such as gels, ointments, bandages or suture materials.
“This study introduces the concept of nanodiamond-mediated release of therapeutic proteins. It's a tricky problem because proteins, even small ones like insulin, bind so well to the nanodiamonds. But, in this case, the right pH level effectively triggers the release of the insulin,” NU McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Dean Ho, who has also been the leader of the new research effort, explains.
During lab tests, the research team noticed that, when insulin was bound to the nanodiamonds, in an aqueous solution, and at normal pH levels, it became inactive, and did not react with substances around it. They argue that this trait is fundamental to the new type of therapy, as it allows for the agent to be taken to the specific place where it must act, and then released. Investigations also showed that, at pH levels usually associated with burned skin, the insulin was released from its carrier over time, dispersing and permeating the affected tissue for hours.