Ohio State researcher creates innovative medical gloves

(Photo: CFAES)

CORRECTION: Due to incorrect information provided, the Jan. 17 version of this release incorrectly stated two things: that a medical glove produced by an Italian company contains Hevea, and that the medical glove produced by Katrina Cornish and her research team is the first Radiation Attenuation (RA) medical glove that can fend off radiation and pathogens, does not require double-gloving, and does not cause allergies. The Italian company’s RA medical glove does not contain Hevea and it can fend off radiation and pathogens, does not require double-gloving, and does not cause life-threatening allergies. It is made of synthetic rubber compared to Cornish’s glove, which is made of natural rubber.

A corrected version of the press release is below.

WOOSTER, Ohio—An Ohio State University researcher and her team have created a medical glove that can block radiation while meeting federal guidelines and not triggering allergic reactions.

This glove also will eliminate the need for medical professionals working with radiation to double-glove when using natural latex gloves to follow the federal requirement that they protect against both bloodborne pathogens and radiation.

“Wearing two different gloves on each hand is like doing surgery in boxing gloves,” said Katrina Cornish, an Ohio Research Scholar and holder of the Endowed Chair in Bio-based Emergent Materials at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The awkwardness of wearing two different gloves leads some medical professionals to use only one set of gloves.

“Then they’re putting themselves at risk,” Cornish said.

The Radiation Attenuation (RA) medical glove Cornish and her team developed uses rubber from guayule, a shrub native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. While there are already several types of RA gloves currently on the market, the glove that Cornish and her team have created uses guayule natural rubber, which is a renewable resource.

This is significant because medical professionals typically prefer gloves made from natural rubber because they are stronger, provide better protection against pathogens, and cause less hand fatigue. RA gloves are required for medical professionals performing procedures such as X-rays or radiation treatment of a tumor.

Historically, natural rubber gloves have been problematic for people with latex allergies. A Type 4 latex allergy, the more common type, can cause a rash and skin cracking, while a Type 1 latex allergy can be life-threatening.

Gloves made from synthetic rubber typically don’t cause life-threatening allergic reactions, but are thicker, less stretchy, and do not offer as much protection against diseases, Cornish said.

“With our glove, you can get all the properties in one glove, and no allergies,” she said.

Besides not causing allergic reactions, the advantages of guayule rubber are that it’s soft, stretchy, and strong. 

Using the rubber from guayule, Cornish and her team were able to produce a glove thick enough to block radiation and strong enough to block pathogens, yet thin enough to be flexible and stretchy, making it easy for professionals to work with precision while wearing them.

“You could make a glove 2 inches thick and you would meet the (required federal) specifications, but you can’t move your hand while wearing them,” she said.

As an added benefit, guayule is grown in the United States, while the bulk of the rubber currently used nationwide is imported from Asia.

The glove was developed in partnership with EnergyEne Inc., a Wooster-based startup led by Cornish.  

“This is going to be enormously helpful for medical professionals because they’ll only have to wear one set of comfortable gloves and they won’t have to worry about getting allergies,” Cornish said.

Cornish will be pursuing Food and Drug Administration approval of the glove, then likely a licensing agreement to commercialize it. It likely will be on the market within three years, she said.

Along with making medical gloves, Cornish and her research team are creating other rubber products from guayule, including condoms and weather balloons. They also are working on products that can be made from the rubber in a specific kind of dandelion, a cousin of the common garden dandelion.

CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Katrina Cornish