I love chemistry, but even more than that, I love the Earth. To study the connection between the two of them is a dream of mine and my research project does a little bit of that. I study the antibacterial, antimicrobial and UV resistance properties of chitosan, a substance that comes from chitin, which is present in the shell of crustaceans, and how to enhance those properties with oils and powders that come from the Earth. We are trying to come up with the best ratio of chitosan, oils and powders that will work the best against bacteria as a wound dressing. A natural, environmental friendly wound dressing that fits today’s society.
My mentor came up with this project after I told her my love for our planet and the subject I study, and I couldn’t love it more. So far, we were able to determine that bergamot and turmeric oils are the best in enhancing the aforementioned properties of chitosan, and that mushrooms work the best against UV light. Throughout the whole process, we hit lots of dead-ends where none of the powders an/or oils were giving any results but my mentor helped me in determining which ones would work the best. But mid Spring semester, we had to hit the pause button on our research. Because of COVID-19, campus is closed and so are the labs. But our love for this research is still going and so are the literature researches, and I cannot wait for the Fall to arrive so I can get back at it in the lab with full force.
As stated on previous posts, this research project studies the enhancement of the antibacterial and UV resistance properties of chitosan with natural oils and powders, and how the final product would work as a natural, organic, biodegradable and environmentally friendly wound dressing. The main results so far is that bergamot and turmeric oils works the best in enhancing the antibacterial property of chitosan, and the mushroom complexes used not only enhanced the same property, but worked as a great UV resistant.
Some challenges experienced so far is that some results were not the ones expected. For example, we tested chitosan sheets with prickly pear oil, which is know to have great UV resistance and antibacterial properties but the results did not demonstrate that. We are continuing testing mixtures of oils and powders that worked well by themselves, and we are hopeful to find the right ratio that will constitute the future wound dressing.
This project started from a conversation I had with my faculty mentor Dr. Rizzo, where I told her about my love for Earth, the environment and chemistry, and she came up with the project idea on the spot. We know that chitosan, the main substance present on the shell of crustaceans, have antibacterial properties. Why not try to enhance it with other natural substances such as oils and powders, substances that are also known to have some kind of antibacterial property, and see how it acts as a wound dressing? The incentive and excitement I got from Dr. Rizzo from the start definitely helped me in staying focused and continues helping me throughout the project.
The chitosan enhanced sheets were first tested when they were dry against E. coli bacteria and for turbidity. Results showed no E. coli growth on all of the sheets and that the sheets that had a higher amount of natural oils and/or powders had less growth on the turbidity test. Then, my professor came up with the idea of testing the sheets against bacteria while they are still wet. The last results using the wet sheets also showed no E. coli growth but we discovered something interesting. When the bacteria was placed on the wet chitosan, all the powder and/or oil that was mixed with the chitosan would concentrate exactly where the bacteria was placed and afterwards, the bacteria would not grow. Me and my professor are going to do more tests with different powders to see if the same happens to them and so, come up with an explanation for this behavior.
The future of this research project looks extremely promising and I cannot wait to learn more from it and from my faculty mentor.
Chitin is found in the composition of the outer skeleton of insects and crustaceans. As an example, shrimp shell consists mainly of 3 components: protein, chitin and calcium carbonate, the latter being the major component. Chitin consists of around 20% of their shell composition. Chitin, after undergoing a chemical hydrolysis in concentrated alkaline solution at elevated temperatures, loses its acetyl groups, transforming into Chitosan is nontoxic, nonallergenic and biodegradable, and Chitosan films has been tested in the medical field as a curative wound dressing not only because of that, but also because Chitosan is known to have antimicrobial and antibacterial activities. The purpose of this research is to see if these properties can be enhanced by adding essential oils and natural powders to the Chitosan sheets, since they have the same properties themselves. To answer these questions, the different Chitosan sheets are going to be tested against different types of bacteria
With this project I hope to learn more about Chitosan’s properties and how essential oils and natural powders work when combined with other compounds.