By Mili Jayadeep | Science Editor
Biomaterials are substances used in the body to interact with tissue. They can either be natural or engineered to cooperate with biological systems. Therefore, its wide application in medicine ranges from uses in heart valves, pacemakers, joint parts and even prostheses.
A team of researchers at the University of Bayreuth have engineered new biomaterials with spider silk proteins using nano-structures. The team led by Professor Dr. Thomas Scheibel has developed this material with great promise for use in biomedicine.
Their research published in the journal, ‘Materials Today’ shows that this biomaterial decreases the chance of infection while encouraging tissue regeneration in its application. This makes the materials suitable for wounds, implants or in prosthetics among other uses. Prof. Dr. Scheibel seems optimistic for the future application of the biomaterial:
“…Nature has once again proven to be the ideal role model for highly advanced material concepts. Natural spider silk is highly resistant to microbial infestation and the reproduction of these properties in a biotechnological way is a break-through,”
Previously used novel biomaterials can often lead to the development of fatal infections. These materials can be susceptible to pathogens, which can result in the formation of thick biofilms caused by the growth of a collective of microbes such as bacteria and fungi. The biofilm may not be seen,is often difficult to clear and can hinder the healing process. Antibiotics and antimycotics used to clean it prove useless to the already resistant pathogens forming the biofilm. Hence, this develops into uncontrollable infections as the micro-organisms spread to the body tissue surrounding the biomaterial.
The research conducted by the scientists at the University of Bayreuth offers an alternative method of preventing an infection altogether caused by an otherwise essential biomaterial. The material has been created using engineered spider silk proteins that are hostile to microbial adhesion. This can be particularly useful in preventing dangerous MRSA infections that are caused by pathogens resistant to multiple drugs.
Furthermore, the new biomaterial is compatible with body tissue and successfully facilitates healing. Hence its applications includes dressings for wounds, skin grafts and implants. The scientists have designed the material to repel microbes by the use of a special coating. Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel says,
“Our investigations to date have led to a finding that is absolutely ground-breaking for future research work. In particular, the microbe-repellent properties of the biomaterials we have developed are not based on toxic, i.e. not cell-destroying, effects. The decisive factor rather lies in structures at the nanometre level, which make the spider silk surfaces microbe-repellent. They make it impossible for pathogens to attach themselves to these surfaces,”
The biomaterial is specifically engineered to reduce the risk of infection while promoting the body’s natural healing processes. The findings from this study introduces novel approaches for utilising spider silk materials for a variety of biotechnological applications. This breakthrough will likely result in the development of microbe-repelling materials in the near future.Science and Technology Mili Jayadeep