BOSTON, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- It's hard for biofilm to develop on the surface of an object if bacteria can't latch on to it. Scientists believe a new, ultra-low adhesive coating could thwart bacterial growth before it starts by making medical implants and other devices extra slippery.
The new coating material is called SLIPS, short for "slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces." In tests, the coating reduced bacterial adhesion by more than 98 percent.
"Device related infections remain a significant problem in medicine, burdening society with millions of dollars in health care costs," Dr. Elliot Chaikof, surgeon-in-chief at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a news release. "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."
SLIPS coatings were developed by Joanna Aizenberg, a researcher and faculty member at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Aizenberg has engineered coatings to reject a variety of substances and for a range of environmental conditions.
"We are developing SLIPS recipes for a variety of medical applications by working with different medical-grade materials, ensuring the stability of the coating, and carefully pairing the non-fouling properties of the SLIPS materials to specific contaminates, environments and performance requirements," said Aizenberg. "Here we have extended our repertoire and applied the SLIPS concept very convincingly to medical-grade lubricants, demonstrating its enormous potential in implanted devices prone to bacterial fouling and infection."
Researchers also tested the anti-adhesion ability of SLIPS coatings while being exposed to conditions designed to replicate a mammal's insides. The efficacy was the same.
Scientists also tested an actual medical implant, medical mesh coated with SLIPS. The mesh was implanted into a mouse model. The model was then injected with Staphylococcus aureus. After three days, there was little to evidence of an infect on the mesh, while control implants featured an infection rate of more than 90 percent.
Researchers detailed the coating technology in a new paper published this week in the journal BioMaterials.