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Innovative antibacterial materials based on imprinting technology

Project ID: 2228cd1352 (You will need this ID for your application)

Research Theme: Advanced Materials

UCL Lead department: Eastman Dental Institute

Department Website

Lead Supervisor: Jonathan Knowles

Project Summary:

The effectiveness of antibiotics is declining dramatically, with more than 4M people suffering from healthcare-associated infection in Europe annually. Sadly, this number is predicted to increase, causing 10M deaths per year and burdening the global healthcare systems for £64tn (£1bn/year in UK only).

Bacterial biofilms (BF) represent “communities” of bacteria which are joined together, clinging to a number of surfaces and forming a protective layer made of sugars and proteins around the group. BF are one of the main sources of protection and resistance, against which antibiotics are 100 to 1000 times less effective. BF formation is mediated by quorum sensing (QS), a process where bacteria release signal molecules called autoinducers (AI). By sensing AI concentration, bacteria can act together and substantiate the BF formation.

Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are cross-linked polymeric materials, which are produced in presence of a target molecule (a chemical, protein, peptide or even whole virus or cell), called “template”. After production, removal of the template leaves behind a cavity capable of recognising and rebinding the target molecule again with high-affinity and specificity. Molecularly imprinted polymeric nanoparticles (MIP NPs) are MIPs at the nanoscale: in this respect, MIP NPs de facto act as a “synthetic antibodies”, which can be exploited for diagnostics, therapeutic or analytical applications.

This project aims at creating advanced MIP NPs capable of interfering with the QS process and at the same exhibiting an advanced antimicrobial function by releasing drugs (such as antibiotics and metal ions), thus allowing the disruption of biofilms but also the killing of bacteria. If successful, the integration of these innovative nanoparticles into tissue regeneration materials could pave the way for the development of advanced clinical devices for all of the circumstances where bacterial biofilms exhibit an important role (e.g., infective endocarditis, bacterial infection on catheters or surgical implants).