Researchers Intend to Use Insect Wings to Create Improved Medical Biomaterials

​A few insect wings, such as cicada and dragonfly have nanopillar compositions that annihilate bacteria as soon as it touches it. Still, up until now, the accurate mechanism that triggers bacterial death has not been discovered by researchers.

Employing a wide range of advanced imaging tools, operational assays, and proteomic analyses, research led by the University of Bristol has found new ways in which nanopillars can destroy bacteria. These significant discoveries will help experts design better antimicrobial surfaces for feasible biomedical applications such as medical implants and devices that are not dependant on antibiotics.

Bo Su, Professor of Biomedical Materials at the University of Bristol’s Dental School, who authored the study, said: “In this work, we sought to better understand nanopillar-mediated bactericidal mechanisms. The current dogma is that nanopillars kill bacteria by puncturing bacterial cells, resulting in lysis. However, our study shows that the antibacterial effects of nanopillars are actually multifactorial, nanotopography- and species-dependent.​”

Enhanced Medical Biomaterials

Together with alteration and subsequent penetration of the bacterial cell pocket by nanopillars, in particular for Gram-negative bacteria, the team discovered the main ingredient to the antibacterial properties of these nanopillars might also be the increased impacts of physical resistance and induction of oxidative stress.

“We can now hopefully translate this expanded understanding of nanopillar-bacteria interactions into the design of improved biomaterials for use in real-world applications,” the professor said.

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council, and its implications are incredibly comprehensive. Now that the researchers understand the mechanism by which nanopillars destroy bacteria, the following step is to employ this knowledge to the logical design and development of nano-patterned surfaces with improved antimicrobial features.

“Additionally, we will investigate the human stem cell response to these nanopillars, so as to develop truly cell-instructive implants that not only prevent bacterial infection but also facilitate tissue integration,” professor Bo Su explained.

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