Graphene binds drugs that kill bacteria on medical implants


Bacterial infections linked to medical implants take a heavy toll on healthcare and cause great suffering to patients around the world. Now researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a new method to prevent such infections by coating a graphene-based material with bactericidal molecules.

“Thanks to our research, we were able to bind water-insoluble antibacterial molecules to graphene and release the molecules in a controlled and continuous manner from the material,” explains Santosh Pandit, researcher in the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering at Chalmers. . , and first author of the study recently published in Scientific reports.

“This is an essential condition for the method to work. The way we bind active molecules to graphene is also very simple and could be easily integrated into industrial processes.

Some bacteria can form impenetrable surface layers, or “biofilms,” on surgical implants, such as dental implants and other orthopedic implants, and are a major health care issue around the world. Biofilms are more resistant than other bacteria, and infections are therefore often difficult to treat, causing great suffering for patients, and in the worst case, requiring removal or replacement of implants. In addition to the effects on patients, this results in significant costs for healthcare providers.

Graphene is suitable as a fixing material

There are a variety of water-insoluble or hydrophobic drugs and molecules that can be used for their antibacterial properties. But in order for them to be used in the body, they must be attached to a material, which can be difficult and laborious to manufacture.

“Graphene offers great potential here for interaction with hydrophobic molecules or drugs, and when we created our new material, we used these properties. The process of binding antibacterial molecules takes place using ultrasound, ”explains Pandit.

In the study, the graphene material was coated with usnic acid, which is extracted from lichens, for example fruticose lichen. Previous research has shown that usnic acid has good bactericidal properties. It works by preventing bacteria from forming nucleic acids, in particular by inhibiting the synthesis of RNA, and thus blocking the production of proteins in the cell.

A simple method paves the way for future drugs

Usnic acid has been tested for its resistance to pathogenic bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis, two common culprits of biofilm formation on medical implants. The researchers’ new material exhibited a number of promising properties. In addition to the positive results for the integration of usnic acid on the surface of the graphene material, they also observed that usnic acid molecules were released in a controlled and continuous manner, thus preventing the formation of biofilms on the surface. .

“More importantly, our results show that the method of binding hydrophobic molecules to graphene is straightforward. It paves the way for more effective antibacterial protection of biomedical products in the future. We are now planning trials where we will explore the binding of other hydrophobic molecules and drugs with even greater potential to treat or prevent various clinical infections, ”said Pandit.

– This press release was originally published on the Chalmers University of Technology website

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