Carnivorous plant inspires coating that fights biofouling on medical implants

A coating inspired by the Nepenthes pitcher plant has prevented bacteria from attaching to surfaces treated with it, a development that could mitigate against biofouling on implanted medical devices.


In a report published in Biomaterials, a team of scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University has demonstrated that the innovative, ultra-low adhesive coating reduced bacterial adhesion by more than 98 per cent in laboratory tests.

“Device related infections remain a significant problem in medicine, burdening society with millions of dollars in health care costs,” said Elliot Chaikof, MD, PhD, chair of the Roberta and Stephen R. Weiner Department of Surgery and Surgeon-in-Chief at BIDMC and an associate faculty member at the Wyss Institute. “Antibiotics alone will not solve this problem. We need to use new approaches to minimize the risk of infection, and this strategy is a very important step in that direction.”

The self-healing slippery surface coatings – dubbed ‘slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces’ (SLIPS) – were developed by Joanna Aizenberg, PhD, a Wyss Institute core faculty member, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at SEAS at Harvard University.

Inspired by the Nepenthes pitcher plant that uses the slippery surface of its leaves to trap insects, Aizenberg engineered surface coatings that repel a variety of substances across a range of temperature, pressure and other environmental conditions. They are said to be stable when exposed to UV light, and are low-cost and simple to manufacture. The current study is the first to demonstrate that SLIPS not only limit the ability of bacteria to adhere to surfaces, but also impede infection in an animal model.

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November 4, 2016



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