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Jaroslaw Adamowski

Expert Opinion

12th August 2016, Poland

Polish consortium develops bioactive textiles for dermatological patients

A consortium set up by Poland’s research unit Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (IWNiRZ), Lodz Technical University, Poznan University of Medical Sciences and local textile industry player Marko-Kolor sp. J. has developed innovative bioactive textiles enabled with healing capacities and intended for dermatological patients. The project partners say that the new textiles allow to produce clothing that can treat dermatoses with the use of microspheres containing active herbal extracts.

The research and development (R&D) works, implemented under the Bioakod project, were supported by funds obtained by the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR) which supports various innovative projects with the use of funds from the European Union.

Products for the elderly and handicapped

In addition to treating dermatoses, the bioactive textiles can be used to produce clothing for the handicapped and older persons, according to the project partners. Bioakod says that, based on data obtained from the EU’s statistical office Eurostat, from 2008 to 2060, the share of persons above the age of 65 will grow in the EU’s population from some 17.1%, or 84.6 million, to as much as 30%, or 151.5 million. By 2020, the elderly and handicaped persons will comprise 25% of the EU’s population, triggering demand for clothing made from special textiles with healing capacities, the four project partners said.

Microcapsules. © Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (IWNiRZ)

“The developed bioactive clothing will have a major impact on improving the quality of life of its users by enabling them to carry out treatment therapies that are often cumbersome, and by ensuring their well-being and safety,” the consortium said.

The clothing was made of natural fibers which are safe for human skin, i.e. linen and organic cotton. Knitted and woven fabrics were dyed with natural dyestuff extracted from plants with anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. The clothing’s functionality was ensured through the application of microcapsules filled with curing herbal extracts. The garments were personalised to fit them to the patients' needs regarding the type and location of skin diseases, as well as the shape and size of bodies. The tests conducted on selected volunteers with skin problems confirmed that the clothing effectively supports treatment of dermatological diseases.

On the look-out for producers

Małgorzata Zimniewska, the initiator and coordinator of the Bioakod project and a professor at the IWNiRZ, told Innovation in Textiles that the institute’s joint work with Lodz Technical University, Poznan University of Medical Sciences and Marko-Kolor sp. z o.o. allowed the consortium to apply for a patent.

Bioactive clothing. © Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (IWNiRZ)

“Unfortunately, the patent procedures are quite time-consuming, so we are currently awaiting a decision on the registration of a patent,” Zimniewska said.

According to the project coordinator, once a patent is obtained, the partners are aiming to launch the production of various clothing products made from the bioactive textile. Last year, the project was presented and obtained prizes at various industry shows, including the iENA Nuemberg International Trade Fair Ideas-Inventions New Products, and the Brussels Innova 2015 World Exhibition on Inventions, Research and New Technologies.

“We are currently in the process of searching for potential manufacturers,” Zimniewska said.

The Polish institute was set up in January 2009 through the merging of two state-run research units, the Research Institute of Medicinal Plants (IRiPZ) and the Institute of Natural Fibres (IWN) whose history dates back to 1947 and 1930, respectively. The IWN has worked on applying natural fibrous materials. Currently, the institute is a unique R&D centre dedicated to studying natural fibres.

The team behind the Bioakod project. © Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (IWNiRZ)

In addition to Bioakod, the institute is involved in a number of both domestic (supported by the NCBiR) and international projects (financed by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme) to develop innovative textiles and fibers. These include: the ModLen project, coordinated by IWNiRZ, under which the institute conducts studies on the technology of producing flax fibre with alternative properties together with the Institute for Sustainable Technologies, Linum Foundation and local firm Ekotex;  the Silantex project under which the IWNiRZ and its partners, Adam Mickiewicz University Foundation, Poznan Science and Technology Park and local manufacturer Andrzej Borzykowski Lniane Tkaniny Żakardowe are developing silano-organic agents for treatment of natural fibres and fabrics; the Flaxmow project, under which the institute aims to develop an innovative technology of harvesting and processing of flax for single-type fibre with its three partners, local companies Ekotex, Baborówko Palace and KK Tuchman; and the Natex project (7th FP), under which the IWNiRZ took part in the research on the fabrication of composites with aligned natural fibres and thermoplastics or thermosets. These hybrid materials show enhanced mechanical properties which makes them suitable for structural applications in the transport, energy and shipbuilding sectors, according to the institute.

The IWNiRZ is based in Poznan, in Poland’s western Wielkopolska region which is one of the country’s most economically developed areas, as well as an academic and industrial centre.

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