Nanofiber-coated cotton bandages. (Credit: Darcy Rose)

Researchers have identified an innovative way to harness the antioxidant and antibacterial properties of the botanical compound lawsone to make nanofiber-coated cotton bandages that fight infection and help wounds heal more quickly.

They used lawsone, a red-orange compound found in henna leaves that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, to boost the performance of cotton.

Lawsone has been shown to help wounds heal more quickly, but it’s difficult to dissolve in a solution and not readily absorbed by the body. To overcome these limitations, the team used cyclodextrins, a family of natural oligosaccharides produced from starch, to create an inclusion compound, binding the lawsone molecules within the cyclodextrin.

They then used electrospinning equipment to produce a uniform nanofibrous coating from the lawsone-cyclodextrin solution, capturing it on a nonwoven cotton pad. They found that the experimental dressing had significantly higher antioxidant activity — promising faster wound healing — compared with pure lawsone, thanks to the increased solubility of the lawsone by cyclodextrin inclusion, and the high surface-to-volume ratio of the nanofibrous system.

The dressing would be particularly helpful for chronic wounds that are highly susceptible to infection, like diabetic ulcers and burns. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties would also benefit more routine wounds by reducing the formation of scars.