Flinders’ Plasma Tech Transforms Spirulina for Wound Healing

Flinders University

Dr. Vi Khanh Truong, right, with first author Ms. Tuyet Pham, whose Master of Biotechnology thesis at Flinders University formed the basis of the study. Credit: Flinders University

Researchers at Flinders University have taken a major step in the field of wound care by using plasma technology to “transform” spirulina microalgae into ultrathin bioactive coatings.

This approach uses argon atmospheric plasma jet technology to transform Spirulina maxima into bioactive coatings which can tackle bacterial infections while also promoting faster wound healing and applying potent anti-inflammatory properties.

“This holds promise, especially for the treatment of chronic wounds, which often pose challenges due to prolonged healing times,” says Dr. Vi Khanh Truong, from the Flinders University Biomedical Engineering Laboratory. “This novel approach could reduce the risk of toxic reactions to silver and other nanoparticles, and rising antibiotic-resistance to common commercial coatings used in wound dressings.”

Schematic depicting the one-step argon atmospheric pressure plasma jet (Ar-APJ) process to transform S. maxima biomass into an ultrathin bioactive coating. A) S. maxima is sprayed onto a universal substrate. B) Ar-APJ process transforms the S. maxima biomass into a durable, bioactive, ultrathin coating. C) Antibacterial wound dressings as a proposed application for the Ar-APJ technology. Credit: Small (2023). DOI: 10.1002/smll.202305469

The latest development, published in the peer-reviewed nanotechnology journal, Small, reveals a new patented plasma-assisted technology which sustainably processes Spirulina maxima biomass into  bioactive ultrathin coatings that can be applied to wound dressings and other medical devices which accelerate healing, modulate inflammation and even protect patients from infection.

The new technique could be readily applied to other types of natural supplements, adds Dr. Truong. “We are using the plasma coating technology to turn any type of biomass — in this case Spirulina maxima — into a more sustainable high-end coating.”

Extract of S. maxima is often used as a protein supplement and to treat skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and other conditions. Researchers say the new plasma technology is the first of its kind and could improve wound healing around the world.

Co-author of the new study, Matthew Flinders Professor Krasimir Vasilev, NHMRC Leadership Fellow, says the technology offers a better solution to current commercial applications, including gold and copper coatings, which will be an important tool to combat antibiotic resistance.

“This new plasma-facilitated downstream processing can improve extraction and purification of useful compounds from biomass without the need for harmful solvents and a lot of energy input,” says Professor Vasilev, Director of the Flinders Biomedical Nanoengineering Lab. “We are now seeking avenues for commercialization of this unique technology.

“Currently there are no commercial wound dressings that simultaneously fight and protect from infection, favorably modulate inflammation, and stimulate healing.

“We believe that the technology will offer a market advantage to medical wound dressing manufacturers and, by reaching the hospitals, make a difference to healthcare and patients.”

Acknowledgements: The research received funding from the ARC, NHMRC and Flinders Foundation. This work is part of a Master of Biotechnology thesis by Ms Tuyet Pham. 

The article, ‘Transforming Spirulina maxima Biomass into Ultrathin Bioactive Coatings Using an Atmospheric Plasma Jet: A New Approach to Healing of Infected Wounds (2023) by Tuyet Pham, et al has been published in Small (Wiley) 15 September 2023.

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