People who are exposed to very cold temperatures, such as mountaineers, are often at risk of experiencing frostbite — an injury caused by the formation of ice crystals in the skin. Many inhabited places in the world with extremely cold temperatures are also remote, meaning that someone experiencing frostbite there may not get treatment in time to prevent severe wounds.
Now, a team of researchers from India’s Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research has developed a cream that when applied to a user’s skin before severe cold exposure could significantly decrease their risk of frostbite.
The cream is made from a combination of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). The two compounds are often used in labs to cryopreserve cells, where DMSO serves to prevent the creation of ice crystals within cells, while PVA prevents crystals from forming between the cells.
After trying out different ratios of each chemical, the scientists found that a mixture of both would work best to protect cultured cells from exposure to cold temperatures. The resulting mixture, named SynAFP, yielded a cell survival rate of about 80 percent in tests. To further improve the efficacy, the scientists combined the SynAFP with aloe vera cream.
They then tested the cream on mice and found that applying it on their skin 15 minutes before exposure to cold temperatures significantly reduced the risk of tissue damage and inflammation from frostbite. According to the researchers, further work is still needed to determine the effects of the antifreeze cream in people, and how often it needs to be reapplied.
Study source: ACS Applied Biomaterials – A Combination of Synthetic Molecules Acts as Antifreeze for the Protection of Skin against Cold-Induced Injuries