New Desi gel to fight frostbite

New Delhi: Soldiers posted in high-altitude sites like Siachen and Ladakh as also mountaineers and winter sports enthusiasts and those visiting or living in the snow-bound areas have a reason to cheer at an on-site treatment available for frostbite, a medical condition that damages skin and tissues due to extreme colds.

A 'nano spray gel' for immediate treatment of the frostbite injuries has been jointly developed by the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), Mohali, an autonomous institution under the Department of Science and Technology, Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIAR), DRDO and the Punjab university.

The spray gel's details are published in the peer-reviewed journal "American Chemical Society Biomaterials Science & Engineering."

If frostbite is not treated promptly, it can lead to gangrene and amputation of the affected limbs. Frostbite occurs when the skin is exposed to a temperature of 0 degree Celsius and it used to be difficult to get treatment quickly in remote and snow-bound areas. This was also a serious medical problem for the armed forces operating in the high altitude areas but no longer, says Kalpesh Vaghasiya, the lead author of INST.

He said the new spray gel is a combination of NSAID, which is a painkiller and anti-inflammatory and clotbuster drug thrombolytic. He said the spray has been prepared using herparin, an anticoagulant that improves the blood flow by reducing clotting and aiding in blood vessel repairs.

The researchers packaged herparin into liposomes, lipid carriers, thus helping deliver the anticoagulant deep inside the skin. The heparin-loaded liposomes were embedded in a sprayable hydrogel that also contains ibuprofen and propylene glycol to prevent freezing of the spray at very low temperature.

The scientists say the gel developed by them is much better than the conventional treatment so far offered that includes immersing the body part in warm water, applying topical antibiotic creams or administering vasodiltors nd anti-inflammatory drugs, though these are not available in the isolated snowy areas like the mountain tops. Moreover, these medications could end up freezing themselves unlike the new gel under such circumstances.

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