Biofilms may no longer have any solid ground upon which to stand.
A team of Harvard scientists has developed a slick way to prevent the troublesome bacterial communities from ever forming on a surface. Biofilms stick to just about everything, from copper pipes to steel ship hulls to glass catheters. The slimy coatings are more than just a nuisance, resulting in decreased energy efficiency, contamination of water and food supplies, and—especially in medical settings—persistent infections. Even cavities in teeth are the unwelcome result of bacterial colonies.In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), lead coauthors Joanna Aizenberg, Alexander Epstein, and Tak-Sing Wong coated solid surfaces with an immobilized liquid film to trick the bacteria into thinking they had nowhere to attach and grow.
Taking a completely different approach, the researchers used their recently developed technology, dubbed SLIPS (Slippery-Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces) to effectively create a hybrid surface that is smooth and slippery due to the liquid layer that is immobilized on it.
First described in the September 22, 2011, issue of the journal Nature, the super-slippery surfaces have been shown to repel both water- and oil-based liquids and even prevent ice or frost from forming.
"By creating a liquid-infused structured surface, we deprive bacteria of the static interface they need to get a grip and grow together into biofilms," says Epstein, a recent Ph.D. graduate who worked in Aizenberg's lab at the time of the study.
"In essence, we turned a once bacteria-friendly solid surface into a liquid one. As a result, biofilms cannot cling to the material, and even if they do form, they easily 'slip' off under mild flow conditions," adds Wong, a researcher at SEAS and a Croucher Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute.
Aizenberg and her collaborators reported that SLIPS reduced by 96% the formation of three of the most notorious, disease-causing biofilms—Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus—over a 7-day period.
The technology works in both a static environment and under flow, or natural conditions, making it ideally suited for coating implanted medical devices that interact with bodily fluids. The coated surfaces can also combat bacterial growth in environments with extreme pH levels, intense ultraviolet light, and high salinity.
SLIPS is also nontoxic, readily scalable, and—most importantly—self-cleaning, needing nothing more than gravity or a gentle flow of liquid to stay unsoiled. As previously demonstrated with a wide variety of liquids and solids, including blood, oil, and ice, everything seems to slip off surfaces treated with the technology.
To date, this may be the first successful test of a nontoxic synthetic surface that can almost completely prevent the formation of biofilms over an extended period of time. The approach may find application in medical, industrial, and consumer products and settings.
In future studies, the researchers aim to better understand the mechanisms involved in preventing biofilms. In particular, they are interested in whether any bacteria transiently attach to the interface and then slip off, if they just float above the surface, or if any individuals can remain loosely attached.
"Biofilms have been amazing at outsmarting us. And even when we can attack them, we often make the situation worse with toxins or chemicals. With some very cool, nature-inspired design tricks we are excited about the possibility that biofilms may have finally met their match," concludes Aizenberg.
Aizenberg and Epstein's coauthors included Rebecca A. Belisle, research fellow at SEAS, and Emily Marie Boggs '13, an undergraduate biomedical engineering concentrator at Harvard College. The authors acknowledge support from the Department of Defense Office of Naval Research; the Croucher Foundation; and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.
Michael Patrick Rutter | EurekAlert!
From foam to bone: Plant cellulose can pave the way for healthy bone implants
19.03.2019 | University of British Columbia
Additive printing processes for flexible touchscreens: increased materials and cost efficiency
19.03.2019 | INM - Leibniz-Institut für Neue Materialien gGmbH
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum
For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
21.03.2019 | Life Sciences
21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE