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DOI: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2016.06.021; PubMed Central: PMID: 27474680
Novel composites between cellulose (CEL) and keratin (KER) from three different sources (wool, hair and chicken feather) were successfully synthesized in a simple one-step process in which butylmethylimidazolium chloride (BMIm+Cl−), an ionic liquid, was used as the sole solvent. The method is green and recyclable because [BMIm+Cl−] used was recovered for reuse. Spectroscopy (FTIR, XRD) and imaging (SEM) results confirm that CEL and KER remain chemically intact and homogeneously distributed in the composites. KER retains some of its secondary structure in the composites. Interestingly, the minor differences in the structure of KER in wool, hair and feather produced pronounced differences in the conformation of their corresponding composites with wool has the highest α-helix content and feather has the lowest content. These results correlate well with mechanical and antimicrobial properties of the composites. Specifically, adding CEL into KER substantially improves mechanical strength of [CEL + KER] composites made from all three different sources, wool, hair and chicken feathers i.e., [CEL + wool], [CEL + hair] and [CEL + feather]. Since mechanical strength is due to CEL, and CEL has only random structure, [CEL + feather] has, expectedly, the strongest mechanical property because feather has the lowest content of α-helix. Conversely, [CEL + wool] composite has the weakest mechanical strength because wool has the highest α-helix content. All three composites exhibit antibacterial activity against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The antibacterial property is due not to CEL but to the protein and strongly depends on the type of the keratin, namely, the bactericidal effect is strongest for feather and weakest for wool. These results together with our previous finding that [CEL + KER] composites can control release of drug such as ciprofloxacin clearly indicate that these composites can potentially be used as wound dressing.
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