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Grant to explore nanotech anti-infective agent for soldiers' wounds

ANN ARBOR, Mich. The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded $1.5 million over three years to the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences and to Ann Arbor-based NanoBio Corporation to develop and test nanoemulsions with potential to fight a wide range of wound infections, including drug-resistant forms.

Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan get infections, sometimes life-threatening, from shrapnel wounds, IED blast injuries and burns. Bacteria from soil, air and a soldier's skin can enter wounds on the battlefield. A treatment easily applied in battle zones and in hospitals that is broadly effective against bacteria, viruses and fungi would help reduce these infections.

Present therapies aren't effective enough against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, and don't prevent or control a problem soldiers with severe burns encounter: They may fall victim to long-lasting inflammatory responses that delay healing.

"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," says James R. Baker Jr., M.D., the principal investigator for the grant.

Baker directs the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences (MNIMBS) at U-M. He is the Ruth Dow Doan Professor of Nanotechnology and allergy division chief at the U-M Medical School and is founder and CEO of NanoBio Corporation.

Nanoemulsions are made of soybean oil, alcohol, water and surfactants emulsified into droplets 200 to 600 nanometers in diameter. They have proved effective at killing a variety of bacteria, fungi and viruses in previous research.

The U-M Nanotechnology Institute and NanoBio will use the grant to develop 10 new formulations of nanoemulsions against bacteria, fungi and spores in lab culture studies, followed by animal studies for effectiveness and safety. If successful, the resulting nanoemulsion treatment would proceed to human trials.

The grant allows U-M and NanoBio scientists to investigate another promising application for nanoemulsion technology developed by Baker with Department of Defense funds in the 1990s. Uses for nanoemulsions include treatments for cold sores, now in phase 3 clinical trials, and for toenail fungus and cystic fibrosis infections, as well as vaccines against influenza and bioterrorism agents.

In a study published earlier this year, U-M researchers found that a nanoemulsion lotion used to treat burns in animals was able to reduce bacterial growth one-thousand-fold compared to control animals receiving no treatment or a placebo. The nanoemulsion also reduced inflammation processes that can cause burn injuries to worsen.


Contact: Anne Rueter
University of Michigan Health System

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