Researchers at the University of Nottingham have discovered a new bacteria resistant polymer which could revolutionize the materials used to make medical devices and subsequently reduce hospital infections. This research was made possible through a process developed by MIT that allows thousands of unique polymers to be tested simultaneously.
Bacterial infections in hospitals are on the rise. They form communities on commonly used devices such as catheters. An example of such communities can be seen in the picture above. These communities attach themselves to the material to form a biofilm. This gives them strength in numbers and makes it hard for antibiotics to be effective against them. This new technology cuts these little guys off at the source before attachment can begin.
Finding Novel Material Requires Novel Approaches
Researchers suspected that there were materials that resisted bacteria, but sifting through the numerous materials available would be an arduous task. This is where a new process developed by MIT came in real handy. The process is called High Throughput Discovery. In very simplistic terms, hundreds of polymers are printed onto a glass slide which allows a high volume of testing to be done. According to a University of Nottingham press release, Professor Alexander [Nottingham School of Pharmacy] said, “This is a major scientific breakthrough — we have discovered a new group of structurally related materials that dramatically reduce the attachment of pathogenic bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli). We could not have found these materials using the current understanding of bacteria-surface interactions. The technology developed with the help of MIT means that hundreds of materials could be screened simultaneously to reveal new structure-property relationships. In total thousands of materials were investigated using this high throughput materials discovery approach leading to the identification of novel materials resisting bacterial attachment. This could not have been achieved using conventional techniques.”
New Hope on the Horizon
The result of this research was the discovery of a material that resisted 96.7% of bacteria in the lab setting. Researchers were also able to show its effectiveness in a mouse study. The possibilities that this new material presents are many including, medical devices, heart valves, and even prosthetic joints. Now that the preliminary research has been conducted the researchers will work in conjunction with manufacturers to develop materials that can be tested in a real clinical setting. This research has been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.