Beauty of science: silver nanoparticles for burn treatment


Silver atoms show up as red in this X-ray fluorescence image of a region within the skin tissues below a burn treated with a silver nanoparticle dressing. Silver has accumulated in the tissue surrounding a vascularised region in the centre of the image.

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Due to their strong antibacterial action, silver nanoparticles are increasingly being employed in the hospital treatment of severe skin burns. The image is from a study aimed at depicting the mobility and the chemical transformation of silver occurring within skin tissue. The figure below shows a depth profile (450 x 3000 μm) of the wound after 3 days of application of a bandage containing silver nanoparticles. Colours indicate the distribution of Ag (red), P (blue), and Cl (green). Silver penetrates into the upper dermis and moves toward the capillary blood vessels, while a new epidermis is forming on top of the damaged surface. The experiment was carried out at beamline ID21 using X-ray fluorescence imaging with a lateral resolution of 2 µm.

Depth profile XRF imaging of silver in skin

Image credit: M. Roman, University Ca’ Foscari, IDPA-CNR.

Top image: X-ray fluorescence image of a capillary vessel region approximately 0.5 mm below the surface of the burned skin of a human patient treated with silver nanoparticles. The red colour shows the location of silver atoms (Image credit: M. Roman, University Ca’ Foscari, IDPA-CNR).