Frostbite is painful inflammatory lesions that appear in areas of the body exposed to cold. They cause red, purplish, painful swellings, blisters, and cracks usually on the nose, ears, hands, or toes.
Frostbite occurs when ice crystals form on the skin and can cause cell death in the exposed area and require amputation.
Also, frostbite can damage deeper tissue, such as muscle and bone, sometimes causing secondary infections and permanent nerve damage.
Current treatment is to rapidly rewarm the affected limb to reverse tissue freezing, but many cells are often already dead.
Recently, scientists have developed frostbite prevention strategies, such as heated clothing or transgenic antifreeze proteins, but these approaches are often expensive, impractical, or have safety issues., explain in a press release the creators of the cream described in an article published in the journal ACS Applied BiomaterialsHave (New window)Have (in English).
A topical cream
The cream created by biochemist Munia Ganguli and her colleagues at the Genomics and Integrative Biology Institute in New Delhi should be applied to the skin 15 minutes before exposure to intense cold.
First, the Indian team tested the frostbite prevention properties of a combination of synthetic molecules commonly used in cell cryopreservation laboratories. They particularly studied dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), which prevents the formation of ice crystals inside cells and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which prevents the formation of ice crystals in the spaces between cells.
The chemists tested the ability of different amounts of DMSO and PVA, alone or in combination, to prevent the death of cultured cells exposed to freezing temperature. They found that 2% DMSO combined with 1.6 mg/mL PVA provided the highest cell survival rate (approximately 80%), while protecting the cell membrane and cytoskeleton.
This combination, called SynAFP, also allowed cells to divide and express proteins more normally after cold stress., add the researchers.
They then tested their creation on mice by mixing it with a commercial aloe vera cream. When applied 15 minutes before cold exposure, the cream reduced the size of frostbite wounds, tissue damage and inflammation, and accelerated healing, compared to no treatment . However, it did not prevent frostbite when applied 30 minutes or more before exposure.
The researchers now want to test the antifreeze cream in humans, and establish how often it needs to be reapplied to remain effective.