Somewhere, it seems, there should be some humor to be had. What do you get when you combine shrimp, seaweed and a bandage?
If you’re Dr. Whitney Hough, it’s a combination that will help diabetics overcome slow-healing sores – known as diabetic ulcers. It’s not a joke in need of a giddy punch line.
Hough, a 28-year-old Albertville native, is a research engineer at a start-up company called 525 Solutions working at the University of Alabama. The company is working to develop a bandage that would help heal diabetic ulcers and the key ingredients are seaweed and a part of a shrimp shell known as chitin.
The bandage would be similar to gauze.
“This kind of bandage is going to be a moist dressing,” said Hough, who holds three chemistry degrees from UA. “It’s going to be something that might be already pre-wet or be a little less dry. It’s going to be moist. You want something that’s kind of like the skin that can allow the cells to regrow and has vitamins and things like that.”
Using shrimp and seaweed.
But this is no joke.
“Diabetes has become quite the epidemic in the last 10 years,” Hough said. “It’s progressed even more as more countries fall into an epidemic of obesity. And diabetic ulcers are coming more and more prevalent.”
About 100,000 amputations are performed each year on diabetics because of ulcers that become infected. The issue, Hough said, is that diabetics have reduced blood flow to their extremities. That also restricts the body’s natural healing process from taking place.
The chitin in the shrimp is rich in anti-bacteria properties. The seaweed, which has long been used to help treat diabetic ulcers, includes a gel-like alginate to produce a fiber that would be woven into bandages and makes a “great barrier” to protect the ulcer, Hough said.