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Innovative coating could give medical implants a longer life

EVANSTON, Ill. --- By mimicking an adhesive protein secreted by mussels and a polymer that repels cells and proteins, researchers at Northwestern University have designed a versatile new two-sided coating that could breathe life into medical implants.

Currently the longevity of certain medical implants suffers because bacteria, cells and proteins in the body gradually accumulate on the devices (known as fouling), compromising their performance and threatening patients with infections. Unfortunately, the polymers that studies have shown to be effective at antifouling do not last long in-vivo, falling prey to chemical degradation or to the body's enzymes.

In contrast, the molecular compound developed at Northwestern, which sticks securely to a surface and prevents cell and protein buildup, works for a long period of time. In laboratory studies, the new coating provided effective fouling resistance for more than five months, which Phillip B. Messersmith, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and lead investigator in the study, believes to be the longest successful in-vitro antifouling demonstration.

The findings are published online today (May 13) by the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

While the coating has not been tested in humans, it holds promise for use on a variety of medical implants including urinary catheters, cardiac stents, biosensors and dental implants and devices. The coating also could be used to prevent the biofouling of water processing equipment, ship hulls and other manmade structures in the marine environment.

Looking for a solution to the longevity problem in existing coatings, Messersmith teamed up with Annelise Barron, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and an author on the paper. Barron is an expert
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
13-May-2005


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