Researchers from Ohio State have succeeded in creating a new medical-grade rubber glove that protects the skin from radiation and prevents allergic reactions to latex.
Made from the natural rubber in the guayule plant, a shrub native to Northern Mexico, the new material is thinner and softer than other synthetic gloves on the market.
“The original development was to address Type 1 latex allergies,” Katrina Cornish, an Ohio State researcher who worked on the glove, said.
The most common type of allergic reaction, Type IV, or delayed type hypersensitivity, can usually present itself as a rash days after using a latex product.
Alternatively, Type 1 allergies are usually found to be the most life-threatening. These reactions can be accompanied by anything from itching, hives, low-blood pressure, to even anaphylaxis — a severe case of exposure which can be fatal.
Because the natural rubber in the latex doesn’t cross-react, allergies aren’t a problem for the radiation attenuation model glove Cornish and her team created, which absorbs and scatters hazardous radiation waves.
For medical professionals, stronger gloves like this one provide more protection while still being soft and stretchy, increasing their dexterity and slowing the effects of hand fatigue.
Cornish is also the CEO of EnergyEne Inc, a start-up company devoted to the sustainable development and production of latex materials. The guayule plant is an important cog in the machine, since it can also be used to produce high energy biofuels and solid rubber products like tires.
“Guayule is a linear polymer and I think the reason we get such thin, strong soft films is because is doesn’t have nearly as much proteins in it,” Cornish said.
Instead of doubling up on two pairs of synthetic gloves to protect themselves, only one pair of natural rubber gloves are needed for biomedical staff who want to work comfortably while also following FDA protocol.
Dr. Princess Ogbogu, director of allergy and immunology at the Wexner Medical Center, said latex research has been extremely beneficial in the medical field.
“We try to move away from using latex as much as possible because we know people can develop reactions to it,” she said. “Even now in the operating room and within biomedical research we try to use non-latex gloves.”
Along with trying to understand how our bodies deal with allergens, immunology is a fast moving field, Ogbogu said. Although the glove is not commercially available, the final stages of production should prove it to be a innovation worth waiting for.
“Any medical advance that takes latex out of the glove and will decrease someone’s risk for a reaction is very good,” Ogbogu said. “I think it’s great that they’re using a glove that doesn’t have latex material in it.”