A ground-breaking study conducted at University College London has uncovered the amazing healing potential of a common protein found in cow’s milk. The study, published in the journal Interface, highlights the potential of casein-infused dressings as a revolutionary means of wound healing and replacing expensive components such as silver currently used in dressings.
The exciting potential of casein
Casein, which makes up about 80% of cow’s milk protein, has long attracted the attention of scientists for its antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And its value as a nutritional supplement further adds to the interest in this protein.
Casein research in the wound healing process
Led by Dr. Jubair Ahmed, the UCL research team investigated the potential of casein in the context of wound healing. They combined pure casein with polycaprolactone (PCL), a biodegradable polyester widely used in dressings. Using a cost-effective manufacturing technique called pressure gyration, they turned the mixture into a fibrous material to create casein-enhanced dressings on a large scale.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the casein-added dressings, the scientists conducted a controlled animal study using rats with identical small skin punctures. The rats were divided into three groups: one group received casein-added dressings, another group received regular PCL dressings, and the third group’s wounds were left untreated. For 14 days, the group closely monitored the progress of wound healing by taking photographs, measurements and microscopic examinations.
By the end of the study, the wounds treated with the casein-added dressings had healed to only 5.2% of their original size. In comparison, wounds in the PCL bandage group and the untreated group shrank to 31.1% and 45.6% of their original size, respectively. These results indicate the tremendous potential of casein in wound healing.
Dr. Ahmed noted, “Natural materials have amazing properties, many of which are unknown. We knew that casein has healing properties and our results show great potential for its use in medicine, such as wound dressings. More work needs to be done to see if casein dressings are safe and effective for humans, but the early results are already promising.”
The therapeutic potential of casein
Further analysis showed that casein dressings were non-toxic and the levels of immune-related molecules were significantly lower in casein-treated wounds. This further confirms the therapeutic properties of casein as a milk protein.
Attractiveness of casein for medical applications
The inexpensive and readily available nature of casein, combined with its potential scalability, makes it an attractive alternative for future medical applications. However, when moving towards clinical applications of natural substances such as casein, there is the challenge of ensuring consistency in their chemical composition and potency.
Professor Mohan Edirisinghe, senior author of the study, commented, “All studies to date indicate that casein has wound healing potential, but at the moment we don’t know in detail why. Casein has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which may certainly play a role.”