Engineers and Orthopedics Experts Reduce Risk of Infection from Medical Prostheses with Nanotech that Mimics Human Skin
Engineers and orthopedics experts are applying nanotechnology to prosthetic medical devices in order to increase patient safety. By closely mimicking human skin, experts hope to reduce the infection-inducing bacteria that grow on prostheses. Changing the texture of the devices in small ways results in a big reduction in bacteria growth, as well as improvement of skin closures and bone growth.
Nanoskin saves lives and limbs - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com
Losing a limb can be devastating and in the United States there are approximately 1.7 million people living that way. One of the biggest fears for those who use prosthetic devices is getting an infection. But researchers are working on a way to mimic the human skin to cut down on infections.
“I went to bed and woke up the next morning and my body was swollen and I had blisters all over it,” Anthony Buttaro, a man who suffered limb loss, told Ivanhoe.
That morning Anthony Buttaro rushed to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed him with MRSA the often deadly infection forced doctors to amputate his left arm. Now Anthony uses a prosthetic device but he is still concerned about infections.
“I’m always worried about it,” Buttaro said.
To ease those fears engineers and experts in orthopedics at Brown University are applying nanotechnology to medicine called nanomedicine to mimic the tiniest features and contours of human skin.
“Skin serves as a barrier to keep bacteria out of the body,” Thomas Webster an engineer at Brown University told Ivanhoe.
Screws are often used to attach the prosthetic device to bone, but bacteria can grow on the screws causing an infection.
“We are talking really, really small features that are making a difference,” Webster said.
The difference comes by changing the texture of the screw. First it is dipped into hydrofluoric acid. At the same time voltage is applied to create the tissue like features.
“What we are seeing, we’re reducing bacteria growth, on these implants, we’re improving skin closures around the implants and improving bone growth,” Webster explained.
By mimicking the skin researchers believe it will cut down on infections, saving lives and limbs. The nanoskin technology is still in the study phase, but researchers hope to start human testing in the future.
ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY: Nanotechnology is science at the size of individual atoms and molecules -- objects and devices measuring mere billionths of a meter, smaller than a red blood cell. At this size scale, materials have different chemical and physical properties than the same materials in bulk, because quantum mechanics is more important. For example, carbon atoms can conduct electricity and are stronger than steel when woven into hollow microscopic threads. Nanoparticles are already widely used in certain commercial consumer products, such as suntan lotions, "age-defying" make-up, and self-cleaning windows that shed dirt when it rains. One company manufactures a nanocrystal wound dressing with built-in antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. On the horizon is toothpaste that coats, protects and repairs damaged enamel, as well as self-cleaning shoes that never need polishing. Nanoparticles are also used as additives in building materials to strengthen the walls of any given structure, and to create tough, durable, yet lightweight fabrics.
The Biophysical Society and the Materials Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.