By Liz White, UT staff
Washington, DC-A research team at the University of Washington has developed an antibacterial medical implant technology based on polyurethanes that could prevent many of the deaths from infections in hospitals that occur each year-50 000 in the US alone.
The researchers, from the University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials (UWEB) group, combined ciprofloxacin antibiotic with polyethylene glycol, then mixed that with a grade of polyurethane used to make medical implants. Coating the material with an ultrathin layer of another polymer, butyl methacrylate using a plasma process gave the required slow release.
When implanted in the body, fluids gradually permeate the thin, outer coating and dissolve the polyethylene glycol, allowing the antibiotic to leach out of the polyurethane.
The polymer is suitable for devices such as catheters as well as more permanent implants, including pacemakers.
Once bacteria get on a device, they are difficult to remove and very resistant to treatment, said Buddy Ratner, UW professor of bioengineering and director of the University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials (UWEB) program, who led the research.
"We found a way to put the antibiotic just on the surface of the device where it interfaces with the body's fluids," he said.
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