Two Syracuse University researchers in New York have created a new surface material that can resist the growth of biolfilm, a sticky build-up of bacteria, and thus may lead to better medical implants.
Yan-Yeung Luk, assistant professor of chemistry in SU's College of Arts and Sciences, and Dacheng Ren, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in SU's L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, say that on the newly created surface material, they can manipulate and confine biofilm growth four times longer than current technologies.
The scientists have also revealed that manipulating the chemical makeup of the surface has enabled them to uncover how mammalian cells and bacteria adhere to surfaces.
Luk and Ren began collaborating about three years ago, when they discovered a common thread in their individual research efforts-the desire to chemically modify surfaces to prevent biofouling.
The researchers say that they went on to create a surface that seemed to repel both bacteria and mammalian cells when the molecule was chemically applied to a surface.
According to them, the surface used in the laboratory is a thin film of gold coated on a glass slide.
"You start with a glass surface (the land); apply a thin film of gold to that surface, about 20 nanometers or five atoms thick (the soil); then top the gold with the molecules we created in the laboratory (the trees). The goal is to see if the special molecules (trees) can resist or prevent protein from sticking to the overall surface. Put another way, do the trees provide an inhospitable environment for birds (the biofilm) and therefore prevent them from roosting en masse?" Luk says.
The researchers say that they were able to control the growth of the biofilm with the surface material, allowing the biofilm to form in some places and restricting its growth in others.
They also found that the biofilm, when confined in two dimensions, grew in a vertical direction.
The team say that another experiment showed them important differences in the way mammalian cells and bacteria attach to a surface.
"Our surfaces are able to reveal that mammalian cell adhesion requires the existence of an anchor, while bacteria can adhere to almost any sticky surface," Luk says.
The researchers believe that their findings may lead to the development of improved medical implants and new ways to prevent biofouling.
"This level of surface control has never before been achieved. We hope that what we have learned in the laboratory will help answer other fundamental questions in surface materials research and lead to the production of new materials for use in medicine and industry," Ren says.
The study has been reported in the online editions of the journals ChemComm and Langmuir.