Researchers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University created a slippery surface coating that can prevent bacterial infection from developing on medical implants, according to a study published in Biomaterials.
Implants can act as scaffolding for bacterial infections to form, developing biofilms that sometimes require surgery. Following implantation, patients are traditionally required to stay on antibiotics to stave off infection.
The team at the Wyss Institute developed a coating designed to prevent bacterial infections, but they did not use antibiotics, for fear of contributing to the widespread overuse of antibiotics. Instead, their coating makes use of a self-healing, slippery surface coating with medical-grade teflon materials and liquids that prevent biofilm formation.
“We are developing SLIPS [slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces] recipes for a variety of medical applications by working with different medical-grade materials, tuning the chemical and physical features of these solids and the infused lubricants to ensure the stability of the coating, and carefully pairing the non-fouling properties of the integrated SLIPS materials to specific disturbing factors, contaminating environments and performance requirements,” lead researcher Joanna Aizenberg said in prepared remarks. “Here we have extended our repertoire of materials classes and applied the SLIPS concept very convincingly to medical-grade teflon, demonstrating its enormous potential in implanted devices prone to bacterial fouling and infection.”
The group was inspired by the Nepenthes pitcher plant and the slipper surface made from an immobilized layer of liquid water on its porous leaves, used to capture insects.
Using a mouse model, researchers compared bacterial and tissue responses to implants with or without the slippery surface, after infecting the mice with Staphylococcus aureus.
The implants that were treated with the slippery surface had “extremely favorable responses”, according to the project leads; they resisted infection by bacteria and were associated with less infiltrating immune cells and inflammatory abscesses than their non-treated counterparts.