New Developments Improve Medical Uses Of Cotton

Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the lead scientific agency for the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Md., and at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va.,
have announced that bedsores and other chronic wounds may heal faster thanks to gauze bandages that
are being developed using cotton. ARS scientists, led by chemist J. Vicent Edwards, have developed
a method to chemically modify cotton guaze so it reduces the amount of the natural enzyme,
elastase, in the wound area. Elastase can slow the healing of some wounds, and in some cases,
prevent healing.Normally the body produces enough natural inhibitors to offset the enzyme, but
chronic skin ulcers common to long-term hospital patients can cause elastase to build to more than
20 times normal levels. These new bandages have shown the ability to deactivate elastase.

November 1999