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Black silicon surface will improve success rates of medical implants

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Posted October 8, 2016

Global population is quickly getting older. Life expectancy is getting longer, but health problems associated with old age are still there. This means that we will need more and more specific medical devices. Now scientists have developed a novel nanomaterial, which can be used in medical devices and implants and will prevent contamination with deadly bacteria.

The surface of black silicon is spiky, which tears attacthing bacteria apart, but does not damage cells of the human body. Image credit: Christoph Kubasch via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

The surface of black silicon is spiky, which tears attacthing bacteria apart, but does not damage cells of the human body. Image credit: Christoph Kubasch via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists say that infections, caused by medical devices and implants, eventually may become a global health concern. It is because of one interesting phenomenon – when a medical device is implanted into the human body, various different cells start colonizing its surface. In other words, they fight for the new grounds, which sometimes causes serious infections. This means that despite huge efforts to sterilize the device before putting into the patient’s body, it will still become a target for bacteria and body cells, which can disrupt the function of the device as well.

Scientists from Australian science institutions of RMIT, Swinburne University of Technology and Universitat Rovira I Virgili from Spain set out to create a new kind of surface. It had to have long-term antibacterial properties and bactericidal capability. Scientists started analysing bactericidal potential of dragonfly wings and black silicon – these structures are able to simply tear apart attaching bacteria. Professor Russell Crawford, one of the authors of the study, said: “Because bacteria are small compared to these spikes, they place tremendous mechanical stress on them, causing them to rupture. But human (i.e. eukaryotic) cells are gigantic by comparison and by having stronger cell walls and distributing their weight over more points, they remain unharmed”.

Then researchers tested the idea using either black silicon or regular silicon and pre-infected their surfaces with human pathogens. While black silicon, which has spiky surface, killed bacteria and did not harm monkey cells, regular silicon, which has smooth surface, did not do any harm to either of them. Scientists even implanted black silicon into mice and it did not cause an inflammatory response. Researchers say that these experiments prove that black silicon is an appropriate material for the creation of future implants and would increase their success rate.

Nanotechnology is the future of the medicine science. They allow improving everything – making medical devices smaller and more effective. Although some more research needs to be done, it looks like soon medical implants will be much more patient-friendly than before.

Source: rmit.edu.au

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