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Researchers in Mainz develop germ reducing implants

Innovative materials will prevent the development of germs on implants. First product applications will be developed soon.

Mainz. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) develop materials that will considerably reduce the risk of inflammations after operations or in wounds. To this end, the scientists work in cooperation with nine other research centers and industrial partners from Spain, Great-Britain, Switzerland and Germany in the EMBEK1 project. The project is designed for three years and is funded with 2.8 Million Euro by the European Union.

Reducing the risk of wound infections

“We are developing surface coatings for implants and dressing material on which the development of germs is hardly possible”, explains Dr. Renate Förch, researcher and project leader at the MPI-P.

“Our special interest lies on the reduction of the complex germs Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeroginosa which pose problems in hospitals because they develop antibiotic resistance. The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) declared in a report that in 2010 already 25 percent of all bacterial strains show antibiotic resistance.

With the help of the methods developed at the MPI-P bacterial infections can be prevented after surgical intervention. To this end, the scientists first have to identify and research both the biological mechanisms underlying the adhesion of germs on certain surfaces and the genetic sequences determining the adhesion process.

“In order to accomplish this, we use the so-called plasma coating of surfaces”, Förch explains. The method used at the MPI for Polymer Research allows for a coating of surfaces with plastic-like materials (plasma polymers) and zinc-releasing materials. Germs can neither adhere to these surfaces nor reproduce themselves.

A cooperative research team from Bath in Great-Britain specialized on the development of an alternative solution to the problem based on metal organometallic hydrogels. Another research group – the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) – focuses their research work on the development of nanostructures that can store and release silver using plasma technology. All these approaches have one thing in common: The researchers always have to take into consideration such criteria as the biocompatibility, storage stability and durability. Thus, the biomedical properties of the materials are being examined by research teams of the Institute for forensic medicine of the University Hospital of Cologne, the Exeter University (UK), Consejo Superio de Investigaciones Cientificas in Barcelona (Spain) and the University Medical Center in Mainz.

Good perspectives for innovative product applications

All involved research teams will meet on January 17th and 18th, 2011 in Cologne to exchange interim results of the last two and a half years’ work. Research results from the EMBEK1 project are already being developed further in a follow-up project: The project BacterioSafe is likewise funded with 3.4 Million Euro by the European Union. The project aims at developing materials at the MPI-P that will at the same time be able to release antibiotic agents on dressing materials and indicate the presence of pathogenic germs. In this process, the scientists first have to identify certain biological mechanisms of pathogenic germs. Those mechanisms will then trigger the release of antibacterial agents and colorants as signaling substances for pathogenic germs using nanocapsules and nanovesicles. Renate Förch believes that after the successful conclusion of the EMBEK1project in summer of 2011 and the BacterioSafe project in three and a half years, the first innovative product applications will soon be produced. Förch is managing editor of the scientific journal „Plasma Processes and Polymers“ of the Wiley-VCH publishing house in Weinheim and project leader of a research group at the MPI-P. Together with 10 other scientists she carries out fundamental research on plasma polymerization for biomedical applications. Förch came to the institute in 1996 after having started her scientific career in England and Canada and having worked for the “Institut für Mikrotechnik” (IMM) in Mainz since 1992.

For further information on the EMBEK1 project see:
For further information on the BacterioSafe project see:

Stephan Imhof | Max-Planck-Institut
Further information:

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