Researchers have succeeded in mapping out for the first time a complete production and treatment process, from using biotechnology to produce bacterial alginate, right through to producing fibres and manufacturing textile materials.
The results that were achieved from this successful research project will form the basis for incorporating bacterial alginate in industrial production.
In a joint project called "AlBioTex", researchers at the Hohenstein Institute, B.R.A.I.N AG and Kelheim Fibres GmbH have successfully developed wound dressings made from bacterial alginate. The aim of the project (sponsorship ID 031A126, in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) BioIndustrie 2021 programme) was to develop a biotechnological process to produce alginate and then process it into fibre-based products for use in wound dressings. The soil bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii was used as a natural alginate resource. This means that the conventional, time-consuming process of obtaining the biopolymer from brown algae can be avoided and replaced by a sustainable biotechnological process.
The organizations involved in the research partnership were the Hohenstein Institut für Textilinnovation gGmbH in Boennigheim (William-Küster-Institut for Hygiene, Environment and Medicine), the bioeconomy company BRAIN AG in Zwingenberg, the world's leading manufacturer of special viscose fibers Kelheim Fibres GmbH, and the producer of highly specialized materials for medical engineering, rökona Textilwerk GmbH in Tübingen. Thanks to the interdisciplinary collaboration between the research partners, they have succeeded in mapping out for the first time a complete production and treatment process, from using biotechnology to produce bacterial alginate, right through to producing fibers and manufacturing textile materials.
Alginate is a biopolymer (polysaccharide) that consists of the glycosidically bonded monomers, guluronic and mannuronic acid. The range of industrial applications for the biopolymer is determined by the sequence and ratio of these two sugar components. Alginate is particularly suitable for use in wound dressings because of its excellent biocompatibility, enormous liquid-absorption capacity and good healing properties.
The conventional alginate that is obtained from algae varies greatly in the composition of its sugar components, because of environmental factors. A time-consuming preparation process is required to obtain the ultrapure and biochemically defined alginate that is needed for medical applications, for example. Using biotechnology to produce alginate, on the other hand, offers the option of synthesizing biopolymers which have defined properties and are of consistent quality for use in medical products.
Research work that began in 2013 has been able to establish, optimize and standardize the cultivation of the soil bacterium and the biotechnological process for producing and isolating bacterial alginates. By working specifically on optimizing the bacterium's alginate biosynthesis, the researchers succeeded in improving the composition, and therefore the properties and yield of the alginate. This meant that they could make customized alginates that are particularly suitable for producing fibers for use in medical products. In a pilot production facility, the research partners were able to spin fibers from alginate and alginate-viscose, and turn them into innovative nonwoven materials and wound dressings within the established process. When the new wound dressings were tested in use, the alginate product that had been made using biotechnology was impressive for its liquid absorption capacity, which was significantly better than that of commercially available marine alginate-based wound dressings. The bacterial wound dressings absorbed up to 70 percent more liquid than marine-based dressings.
"The results that were achieved from this successful research project will form the basis for incorporating bacterial alginate in industrial production," declared Dr. Guido Meurer, a member of the Management Board of BRAIN AG. "Now our next goal for the future is to identify other areas of application for bacterial alginate and so open up new sales markets for customized 'special alginates'," added Dr. Daniela Beck from Kelheim Fibres. "Until now it has been impossible, or very difficult, to vary and optimize the material properties of alginate. Thanks to biotechnology, there is now nothing to prevent the targeted use of alginate in specialist textiles," said a delighted Prof. Dirk Höfer of the Hohenstein Institute.
MEDICA-tradefair.com; Source: Hohenstein Institute