Excellent Idea of the Day: Licorice for Cleaning

Licorice wheels are an ancient, popular candy is derived from the licorice root. Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

A nano-material extracted from the licorice plant is powerful enough to clean medical devices and implants.

Licorice isn't just candy for kids anymore. A nano-material containing an extract from the plant can be used to protect medical devices and implants that include biological components as they are sterilized.

Proteins and other active coatings have been developed for joint replacement and tracheal implants, to name two. But those coatings are sensitive to harsh chemicals, radiation and heat. Unfortunately, those three methods also happen to be the best way to sterilize the devices.

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A new coating, containing a compound called glycyrrhizic acid, which is found in licorice, protects the implants by shielding the active chemicals. Glycyrrhizic acid is one of the main compounds in licorice that gives it a sweet taste. It also has the ability to stay intact, even when exposed to radiation or chemicals that would break down most proteins.

The coating was developed by Leukocare AG and tested by exposing it to high levels of ionizing radiation. A special antibody was put on a piece of porous plastic, and the coating was applied. After exposure to the radiation, the antibody remained intact.

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One plus for this particular chemical is that it doesn't have anything in it that could interfere with the functioning of the medical device. The coating doesn't have sugars, proteins or sugar alcohols.

The team is publishing their findings in the latest issue of the journal Materials Today.

Via Materials Today

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