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New Nanoparticle-embedded Antimicrobial Coatings for Dental Devices

Published on 2017-07-14. Author : SpecialChem

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria colonize medical equipment. They are causing rise in the number of patients getting infected in hospitals.

A KAUST team is trying to reduce these numbers with a smart polymer. The polymer changes color and activates natural antimicrobial enzymes when bacterial contamination is detected.

Antimicrobial Coatings

Dental Coating
A rapid test under UV light reveals if dental imaging
plates are contaminated with bacteria

The polymers are embedded with nanoscale crystals. They slowly release silver ions, a broad-spectrum biocide agent. However, challenges with nanoparticle leaching, have thwarted advancement of this technology.

Associate Professor Niveen Khashab and colleagues from the University’s Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Center switched to gold nanoparticles.

The nanoparticles could give antimicrobial coatings detection capabilities.

These tiny crystals have sensitive optical properties. They can be tuned to spot specific biomolecular interactions. But incorporating them safely into polymers required new types of nanofillers.

Nanofillers are small chemical agents distributed in the matrix of a polymer composite,” explained Khashab.

They’re dopants, so they improve on the regular material and introduce new properties—in our case, making the coating antibacterial.”

Nanoparticles for Antimicrobial Coatings


  • The team used gold nanoclusters
  • They nanoclusters are treated with lysozyme enzymes that have innate defenses against pathogens
  • They attached these colloids to the surface of slightly larger, porous silica nanoparticles stuffed with antibiotic drug molecules
  • Normally, this gold-silica complex emits glowing, red fluorescent light 
  • But when the lysozyme units encounter bacteria, a strong attraction for cell walls rips the gold nanoclusters from their silica partners
  • This action simultaneously switches off fluorescence and releases the antibiotic cargo

Gold-based Nanofillers


  • Experiments revealed the gold-based nanofillers integrated thoroughly into polymer composites
  • They also exhibited minimal leaching during trials with E. coli
  • The favorable polymer interactions is due to the sharp exposed edges of gold clusters on the silica spheres

The researchers tested their concept by comparing X-ray dental plates. The test are done with and without the smart polymer coating. Both samples yielded the same high-resolution images of teeth and bone structure.

However, only the coated plate enabled rapid visual assessment of bacterial contamination. It is done by simply illuminating the device with a UV-lamp and looking for color change. Successful release of the antibacterial agent also drastically decreased biofilm buildup.

The process of coating is easy,” noted Khashab. “We are looking at improving this technology to include other medical devices of different sizes and shapes.

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Source: KAUST
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