Dear Prof Dr Doser, textiles are used widely and variedly in healthcare. In the current corona pandemic, the focus is mainly on protective gear like face masks as well as hospital and surgical clothing. Which innovative techniques and applications from the textile industry can play a role in the current crisis?
The textile industry plays an important role indeed. Especially in the area of protective gear, antiviral textiles like masks already exist. The high thickness of the textiles used, however, impairs the passage of air and makes it difficult to breathe. So, it would be interesting to develop textiles which allow for easier breathing but also incorporate a respective coating which traps viruses and preferably inactivates them. Because of the current pandemic, many ideas and approaches are being developed, which could be of interest in the Covid-19 pandemic, but also when considering the yearly influenza period.
Whether they are antibacterial or antiviral, in which fields are such textiles already in use and what are the opportunities and challenges?
There are already many textiles in use which have been treated with antimicrobial finishes. Textile implants and suture material especially are used, which are antibacterial and prevent germs from entering wounds and spreading in a patient, because operating theatres have less germs, but are not free of them. But, again and again, points are made to apply antimicrobial coatings to hospital linen. Considering the high number of germs in the hospital environment and on the human skin, however, there is still room for improvement.
Contrary to bacteria, viruses are a lot more challenging and we need to develop tricks how to fight them with textiles. A possibility currently under research is to bind the virus protein ligands to a specially coated textile surface and subsequently deactivate them.
In view of diseases that spread worldwide and everyday healthcare life, what other applications for textiles are there, which will play a significant role in the future and which are being researched now?
The possibilities for the application of textiles, especially in healthcare, are often underestimated, when, in reality, they have huge potential because it is possible to create many diverse structures, which can be functionalised and thus be applied in equally many diverse areas. For a long time now, we have been doing research on how wound healing processes can be positively influenced by fixing active substances to the surface of textiles or to porous fibres and later releasing them at a specific moment. This potential exists not only for implants or the healing of wounds, however. It would also be interesting to find out by researching how textiles release antibacterial or antiviral substances in order to promote the healing process in bacterial diseases or viral infections.
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