13 Jun '12
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor
Scientists of Saratov State University have developed a new nanofiber product that they claim is “unmatched” elsewhere in the world. Their nanomembrane is believed to be a forerunner to the future art of human organ growing, and having superb air and vapor permeability could make it a material of choice in a range of sectors including pharma, energy, construction, filter manufacturing and some others. The university’s spin-off company, Rusmarko, says it’s ready to commercialize the invention in Moscow.
The Saratov State University (SSU) research team is working on what experts believe to be a universal material applicable to a broad variety of purposes. Its largest application is probably medicine. Due to its exceptional properties the new nanofiber might become a state-of-the-art healer of skin injuries. It is also expected to find its way into organ and tissue transplantation clinics as the developers feel their discovery is a hopeful first step towards growing body organs.
Other possible applications include construction, energy, tobacco making as well as production of personal protection gear requiring advanced filters. More uses are envisioned because the nanomembranes may be flexible in design and therefore create demand for nanofiber-based innovation products in others sectors.
The Saratov research group has a business partner, Moscow-based innovative company Rusmarko, which says it undertakes to commercialize the invention and has already “secured orders” for nanofiber-based analytic filters to be used in nuclear reactors and at industrial facilities with high concentrations of dust and gas. The effort is backed by the Moscow government, the partners say. Any timeframes for launching full-scale production and sales have yet to be announced.
Established by Emperor Nicholas II’s decree in 1909, Saratov State University now has 28 departments that train a student body of over 28,000 in more than 90 majors.
The university actively engages in innovation and runs four research institutes that focus on physics, chemistry, geology, and nonlinear systems.
Its partner in the nanomembrane project, Rusmarko, is an innovative start-up spun off from SSU two years ago and now headquartered in the Strogino techno-park, Moscow. The company was set up with the sole focus on promoting the nanofiber technology and developing production of biopolymer-based membranes for a variety of sectors.
Conceiving a “new economic sector”
Dmitry Perminov, Rusmarko director for development, is positive about the future of the Saratov innovation and in an exchange with the media went so far as to say, “Russia will see the creation of a new economic sector” driven by the sophisticated nanofiber.
Saratov’s nanomembrane, which its developers say is completely unique in its combination of useful properties, was first conceived in scientists’ aspiration to find a way of regenerating the human skin severely damaged by burns or frostbites.
The submicron-sized fiber was ‘born’ from a valuable sea product, chitosan; according to Prof. Nikolai Ostrovsky of SSU, this natural biopolymer was exposed to electricity in a special technique developed in Saratov. Chitosan is a linear polysaccharide derived commercially from the chitin-rich shells of crabs, shrimps and some other crustaceans and already used in bandages and hemostatic agents due to its ability to rapidly clot blood.
Serving an array of purposes
The marriage of chitosan and the Saratov technology has brought about what is believed to be a next gen healing and anti-germ protective material and a superb filter with increased air and vapor permeability.
The new fiber may become a great helper in Russian hospitals and clinics. It is biodegradable, the developers say; one doesn’t have to remove the innovative bandage as tissue proteins simply dissolve it in due course, leaving no scar. Applying it causes no pain, and wound healing is purportedly sped up dramatically.
The Saratov team claims the nanomembrane ensures 99% anti-microbe protection and 100% annihilation of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a group of bacteria that cause numerous diseases as a result of infection of various tissues of the body and are still a plague of maternity departments in hospitals across Russia and abroad. The project partners are now considering launching production of composite-based linen for hospitals with the new ‘Staph killer.’
The nanomembrane also presumably removes 99.99% of blood clots, leaving the blood components intact.
SSU and its Moscow spin-off say they are working on a brand new nanofiber-based drug candidate that won’t be taken orally but will rather be absorbed into our circulatory system through the skin almost immediately. A dose for this original therapy will be a fraction of what patients have to swallow today, the project partners claim.
Moving to other areas, the developers say their innovation effectively removes impurities from water and cleanses gases of tarry suspensions, dust and other solid impurities. With this a whole new set of opportunities is reportedly opening up in the development and manufacture of next gen breathing masks and other similar protection items that could give a person caught in a fire an extra few precious minutes without inhaling carbon monoxide.
Filter-tipped cigarettes containing an advanced nanofiber filter may be a life-saving solution for heavy smokers unable to quit; the new material is thought to reduce tar content in tobacco fumes by an estimated 28 times. Rusmarko hopes a 30-filter package will cost approximately as much as a typical cigarette pack, which could make it a much less harmful alternative to the so-called ‘e-cigarettes’ now found to be not so innocuous.