New Coating Process May Prevent Body From Rejecting Medical Implants

ar level, UW researchers suspect, is specific proteins that normally direct the healing process are unable to recognize the artificial materials used to make implants. Instead, Ratner says, implants are bombarded by a jumble of proteins that confuses the macrophage cells responsible for tissue regeneration and triggers the body's inflammatory foreign material reaction.

Ratner's team has devised a complex process for coating artificial materials so their surfaces can attract and bind specific proteins. To begin the process, a layer of the desired proteins is spread over a smooth surface like mica. The proteins and mica are then coated with a thin layer of sugar molecules. Next, a Teflon-like fluoropolymer coating is applied to the surface through a gas-phase plasma deposition process. The coating is then peeled off the mica and dipped into a solution to dissolve the proteins. What's left behind is a Teflon-like polymer coating containing sugar-lined pits in the exact shape of a specific protein.

Laboratory experiments show that coatings prepared in this way have a strong affinity for the protein used to form the pits. It's a combination of the proteins recognizing the shape of the pits and the sugar molecules binding to the surface of the proteins, Ratner says. Tests were done using proteins of similar sizes and only the protein with the appropriate shape and chemistry adhered to the coating.

One of the proteins to be tested next is osteopontin. UW bioengineering professor Cecilia Giachelli discovered osteopontin plays a critical role in preventing calcification of heart valves but typically is not present in high concentrations on artificial valve implants. Ratner and Giachelli will explore whether valve implants coated using the UW process will bind enough osteopontin to inhibit calcification. This may reduce the need for dangerous and expensive valve replacement surgery in tens of thousands of patients.

"We've achi

Contact: Greg Orwig
University of Washington

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