Monday, August 26, 2019
An NIH-funded project shows that graphene could be an alternative to chemicals in insect repellent and protective clothing.
According to a new study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, an innovative graphene film helps protect people from disease-carrying mosquitoes. The research, conducted by the Brown University Superfund Research Center in Providence, Rhode Island, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"These results could lead to new methods of protection against mosquitoes without the effects on the environment or human health of other chemical-based repellents," said Heather Henry, Ph.D. ., a scientific administrator of the NIEHS Superfund research program.
The researchers found that a dry graphene film seemed to interfere with mosquitoes' ability to detect the skin and sweat, as they did not land and did not attempt to bite. Looking closely at the videos taken on the mosquitoes in action, they noticed that the insects landed much less often on the graphene than on the bare skin. Graphene film also constituted a powerful barrier against which mosquitoes could not bite, although it did not prevent it when it was wet from landing on the skin.
"We figured that the graphene film would act as a mechanical barrier, but after observing the behavior of the mosquitoes, we began to suspect that they did not want to bite," said Robert Hurt, Ph.D. .D., Director of the Superfund Research Program at Brown University.
Mosquitoes threaten public health by carrying infectious viruses such as yellow fever, West Nile virus and Zika virus, which cause disability and the death of millions of people every year.
The results show that graphene, a tight network of carbon honeycomb, could be an alternative to the chemicals currently used in mosquito repellent and protective clothing. Until this study, protection against insect bites was an unexplored function of graphene-based materials.
Several years ago, Hurt began designing combinations with graphene to protect workers from dangerous chemicals found on environmental cleaning sites. He emphasized that the richness of the literature demonstrated the impermeable qualities of graphene. Graphene is invisible to the naked eye, but harder than diamonds, stronger than steel and more conductive than copper. Since its discovery in 2004, graphene has been used for various purposes as a barrier and filtration.
"This innovation using graphene to repel mosquitoes could help reduce the burden of diseases associated with a number of infectious diseases and could reduce the need to use pesticides to eradicate the mosquitoes that carry them," said William Suk, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program. "New material like this one should be evaluated in the field to determine all the implications for public health."
Grant Number: P42ES013660
About the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS): NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of the National Institutes of Health. For more information on NIEHS or on topics related to environmental health, visit www.niehs.nih.gov or subscribe to a list of news.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
The NIH, the country's medical research agency, has 27 institutes and centers and is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the lead federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical and translational medical research. She studies causes, treatments and treatments for common and rare diseases. For more information on NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
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Chief Justice Castilho, Li D, Liu M, Liu Y, Gao H and Hurt RH. 2019. Prevention of mosquito bites by means of graphene barrier layers. PNAS.