Crab Shell Bandages: the Future of Medicine?
by Dyami Rodriguez, age 16
Scientists at the University of Wuhan in China have discovered that shells from crabs, shrimps, and lobsters can help heal wounds faster, as well as reduce the chance of infection. The shells contain a material called chitin (Ky-tin), which have powerful healing properties. Scientists are testing ways to make chitin into gauzes and bandages to accelerate the healing process.
Jinping Zhou, a chemist at the University of Wuhan, wanted to verify that chitin would help wounds heal, so he and his team decided to perform tests on rats. The experiments consisted of three groups of rats and three different gauzes: a chitin gauze, a cellulose gauze, and another similar gauze. The team of scientists made four millimeter cuts on each rat and applied the gauze. After twelve days, the gauze made with 71 percent chitin showed the most improvement.
The steps to make chitin gauze are simple but time consuming. First, the shells of the lobsters, crabs, and shrimps are ground into tiny little pieces. Afterwards, they are submerged in a special solvent for 12 hours. Next, the product is heated and bleached, transforming into fabric fibers. Finally, the material is spun into a gauze and the process is complete.
Chitin gauze has the potential to do more than heal surface cuts. Since chitin can dissolve into the body, it can be used in complex surgeries to stop internal bleeding without needing to be removed later through a second surgery, as would be the case with cellulose gauze. The use of chitin has the potential to transform medicine and future experiments will be done to study its potential application and benefits in other areas.
[Source: Science News for Students]