‘Bio-safe’ implants – a foreseeable future? Research by scientists in Singapore and Hong Kong

Image source: http://bit.ly/1DPuxVR
                                   Image source: http://bit.ly/1DPuxVR

A biological implant- a crucial tool to the medical community, is a structure designed to support or replace a body part that is impaired. An implant can also be used to increase the functions of a certain organ. The biggest caveat to the use of medical implants has been the high rate of failure due to rejection by the body. A group of scientists from Singapore and Hong Kong seem to have an answer to this plaguing concern. In their recent study published in Biomedical Materials, they have identified that a biomaterial coating could help dramatically improve the success of medical implants.

Implantation of medical devices in the body has been associated with infection and serious complications due to the adherence of bacteria to the surface of the implant, forming layers known as biofilms, which prevent the adherence of the host cells and eventually lead to implant failure. Thus research has been directed towards functionalization of the implant surface such that it prevents bacterial adhesion and selectively promotes host cell attachment. The current study aims to and has achieved this exact purpose.

After testing multiple concentrations of potential adhesive substances known as ligands, this group of scientists has discovered that the use of a bio-selective adhesive RGD (Arginylglycylaspartic acid) peptide as opposed to collagen, on a polyelectrolyte multilayer (PEM), which has antimicrobial properties, is quite efficient in promoting attachment of human fibroblasts while selectively preventing the attachment of two strains of bacteria tested, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. It has opened interesting avenues for development of antimicrobial implants that allow only specific cell types of the body to adhere. The lead scientist of this study, Professor Vincent Chan from Nanyang Technological University said, “The method we developed helped the host cells win the so called ‘race-for-surface’ battle, forming a confluent layer on the implant surface which protects it from possible bacterial adhesion and colonization. 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. In future studies we hope to firstly improve the long-term stability of the coating.”

The original publication can be accessed here.

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