Infections acquired in hospitals kill thousands of people in the U.S. each year, and sticky colonies of bacteria known as biofilm that form on medical implants are one of the leading causes of these infections. Thrombosis, or blood clotting, is another potential danger associated with implants.
Now, a University of Georgia scientist is developing a new weapon in the fight against clotting and infections related to medical devices. Hitesh Handa, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering, is designing biocompatible polymer coating that not only prevents biofilm growth but also attacks harmful bacteria by releasing nitric oxide, a naturally occurring gas with potent antimicrobial properties.
Handa’s work recently attracted a four-year, $1.5 million research grant from the National Institutes for Health.
“Current technologies fail to completely address the potentially harmful complications related to medical implants,” Handa said. “Nitric oxide is the focus of this project because it not only serves as an antimicrobial agent, it also can help prevent clotting on the medical implants such as vascular catheters.”
If successful, Handa believes his nitric oxide-releasing coatings will be applicable to a wide range of medical devices and implants including vascular grafts, stents, urinary catheters and endotracheal tubes.