Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Biomimicry Week Sharks' Repellant
01 July 2013

Sharks' Repellant

Why don't sharks get covered in algae like most other marine animals? This question may seem trivial, but unlocking the big fish's secret has led to new materials that inhibit bacterial growth. Shark skin possesses tiny riblets arranged in a repeating diamond pattern, which makes it harder for organisms to hang on and establish colonies. Synthetic material that imitates this unique trait (right column) has a significantly reduced build-up of bacteria than a similar surface without the special ridges (left column). After three weeks (bottom row), bacteria are only beginning to establish themselves on the "shark skin", whereas the basic material has been completely engulfed. With antibiotic resistant bacteria – such as the superbug MSRA – becoming increasingly common, finding new ways to fight infection is a major challenge for the future. Medical equipment and implants imprinted with shark skin patterns offers a great way to bite back.

Written by Jan Piotrowski

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