Biomaterial Coating Promises More Successful Medical Implants

Researchers are studying a new biomaterial that helps healthy cells adhere to the implant, fend off bacterial cells and thus, reduce the likelihood of the implant being rejected by the body.

Researchers from A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) in Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and City University of Hong Kong, have produced a novel, bacteria-repelling coating material that could increase the success of medical implants.

The material helps healthy cells ‘win the race’ to the medical implant, beating off competition from bacterial cells and thus reducing the likelihood of the implant being rejected by the body.

The first results of the material’s performance were published recently in IOP Publishing’s journal Biomedical Materials.

Failure rate of certain medical implants still remains high—around 40 percent for hip implants—due to the formation of biofilms when the implant is first inserted into the body. This thin film is composed of a group of microorganisms stuck together and can be initiated by bacteria sticking to the implant. This prevents healthy cells from attaching and results in the body eventually rejecting the implant, potentially leading to serious complications for patients.

This new material not only repelled bacteria but also attracted healthy cells. This combination was tested on cultures of healthy fibroblast cells and cultures of bacterial cells, in which two specific strains were used—E. coli and S. aureus.

“Medical implants currently have antibacterial silver coatings incorporated into them; however, the total amount of silver used must be very carefully controlled because high concentrations could kill mammalian cells and become toxic to the human body,” according to lead author of the research, Professor Vincent Chan from Nanyang Technological University. “The bio-selective coatings we’ve created do not have this problem as the materials used are non-toxic and the preparation process uses water as a solvent.”

At the moment this is just a ‘proof-of-concept’ study, so there is still a long way to go before the coating can be used on implants in clinical setting. The researchers hope to improve the long-term stability of the coating for further studies.

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