Biological and medical applications

Living organisms and biological substances are among the most difficult and persistent sources of surface fouling, particularly in medical and marine settings. The ability of organisms to adapt, move, cooperate, evolve on short timescales, and modify surfaces by secreting proteins and other molecules enables them to colonize even state-of-the-art antifouling coatings, and small surface defects can trigger protein aggregation and blood clotting. Attempts to combat these issues are further hindered by conflicting requirements at different size scales and across different species. 

The defect-free, dynamic liquid interface of SLIPS overcomes many of these problems at once. A single surface is able to prevent adhesion of a broad range of genetically diverse bacteria, including many pathogenic species that underlie widespread hospital-acquired infections, as well as marine algae. The same approach resists adhesion of proteins, cells, and blood, preventing clogging and thrombus formation inside medical tubing and catheters. At a larger scale, the slippery interface repels insects, which slide off and actively avoid the coated surface. We are currently developing this strategy to solve longstanding fouling issues in a wide range of medical, marine, and other settings.


MacCallum N, Howell C, Kim P, Sun D, Friedlander R, Ranisau J, Ahanotu O, Lin JJ, Vena A, Hatton B, et al. Liquid-Infused Silicone As a Biofouling-Free Medical Material. ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng. 2015;1 (1) :43-51.Abstract
There is a dire need for infection prevention strategies that do not require the use of antibiotics, which exacerbate the rise of multi- and pan-drug resistant infectious organisms. An important target in this area is the bacterial attachment and subsequent biofilm formation on medical devices (e.g., catheters). Here we describe nonfouling, lubricant-infused slippery polymers as proof-of-concept medical materials that are based on oil-infused polydimethylsiloxane (iPDMS). Planar and tubular geometry silicone substrates can be infused with nontoxic silicone oil to create a stable, extremely slippery interface that exhibits exceptionally low bacterial adhesion and prevents biofilm formation. Analysis of a flow culture of Pseudomonas aeruginosa through untreated PDMS and iPDMS tubing shows at least an order of magnitude reduction of biofilm formation on iPDMS, and almost complete absence of biofilm on iPDMS after a gentle water rinse. The iPDMS materials can be applied as a coating on other polymers or prepared by simply immersing silicone tubing in silicone oil, and are compatible with traditional sterilization methods. As a demonstration, we show the preparation of silicone-coated polyurethane catheters and significant reduction of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilm formation on the catheter surface. This work represents an important first step toward a simple and effective means of preventing bacterial adhesion on a wide range of materials used for medical devices.
Leslie DC, Waterhouse A, Berthet JB, Valentin TM, Watters AL, Jain A, Kim P, Hatton BD, Nedder A, Donovan K, et al. A bioinspired omniphobic surface coating on medical devices prevents thrombosis and biofouling. Nature Biotechnology [Internet]. 2014;32 (11) :1134-1140. Full TextAbstract

Thrombosis and biofouling of extracorporeal circuits and indwelling medical devices cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. We apply a bioinspired, omniphobic coating to tubing and catheters and show that it completely repels blood and suppresses biofilm formation. The coating is a covalently tethered, flexible molecular layer of perfluorocarbon, which holds a thin liquid film of medical-grade perfluorocarbon on the surface. This coating prevents fibrin attachment, reduces platelet adhesion and activation, suppresses biofilm formation and is stable under blood flow in vitro. Surface-coated medical-grade tubing and catheters, assembled into arteriovenous shunts and implanted in pigs, remain patent for at least 8 h without anticoagulation. This surface-coating technology could reduce the use of anticoagulants in patients and help to prevent thrombotic occlusion and biofouling of medical devices.

Howell C, Vu TL, Lin JJ, Kolle S, Juthani N, Watson E, Weaver JC, Alvarenga J, Aizenberg J. Self-Replenishing Vascularized Fouling-Release Surfaces. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces [Internet]. 2014;6 (15) :13299-13307. Full TextAbstract

Inspired by the long-term effectiveness of living
antifouling materials, we have developed a method for the self-
replenishment of synthetic biofouling-release surfaces. These
surfaces are created by either molding or directly embedding
3D vascular systems into polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and
filling them with a silicone oil to generate a nontoxic oil-
infused material. When replenished with silicone oil from an
outside source, these materials are capable of self-lubrication
and continuous renewal of the interfacial fouling-release layer.
Under accelerated lubricant loss conditions, fully infused vascularized samples retained significantly more lubricant than equivalent nonvascularized controls. Tests of lubricant-infused PDMS in static cultures of the infectious bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli as well as the green microalgae Botryococcus braunii, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Dunaliella salina, and Nannochloropsis oculata showed a significant reduction in biofilm adhesion compared to PDMS and glass controls containing no lubricant. Further experiments on vascularized versus nonvascularized samples that had been subjected to accelerated lubricant evaporation conditions for up to 48 h showed significantly less biofilm adherence on the vascularized surfaces. These results demonstrate the ability of an embedded lubricant-filled vascular network to improve the longevity of fouling-release surfaces.

Yao X, Dunn S, Kim P, Duffy M, Alvarenga J, Aizenberg J. Fluorogel Elastomers with Tunable Transparency, Elasticity, Shape- Memory, and Antifouling Properties. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed [Internet]. 2014;53 (17) :4418-4422. Full TextAbstract

Omniphobic fluorogel elastomers were prepared by photocuring perfluorinated acrylates and a perfluoropolyether crosslinker. By tuning either the chemical composition or the temperature that control the crystallinity of the resulting polymer chains, a broad range of optical and mechanical properties of the fluorogel can be achieved. After infusing with fluorinated lubricants, the fluorogels showed excellent resist- ance to wetting by various liquids and anti-biofouling behavior, while maintaining cytocompatiblity.