Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Antibacterial Material

Insect wing-inspired material ruptures bacteria

20 September 2020

Antibacterial Material

Disease-causing bacteria are formidable foes at the best of times but are particularly menacing in cases of medical device-associated infections. The surfaces of implanted devices, such as catheters and heart valves, can become coated in dense impenetrable bacterial biofilms – the microbial equivalent of nuclear bunkers – that surround and protect the bugs from both antibiotics and the patient’s immune system. With the aim of developing devices that can resist biofilm formation, researchers are taking inspiration from flying insects. The wings of dragonflies, cicadas and other insects are naturally antibacterial, having nanostructures that can pierce and slice bacterial cells preventing them from getting a foothold. Pictured above is a manmade wing-inspired material – silicon nanoneedles – shown rupturing a Stapholococcus aureus bacterium. Researchers are continuing to develop such materials to maximise lethality to bacteria, safety to patients and feasibility for use in implants.

Written by Ruth Williams

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