Bacteria For Building Better Bone Replacements

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Bacteria that manufacture hydroxyapatite (HA) could be used to make stronger, more durable bone implants. Professor Lynne Macaskie from the University of Birmingham this week (7-10 September) presented work to the Society for General Microbiology’s meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

Using Serratia bacteria, the research showed that the bacterial cells stuck tightly to surfaces such as titanium alloy, polypropylene, porous glass and polyurethane foam by forming a biofilm layer containing biopolymers that acted as a strong adhesive. The HA coating then builds up over the surface. For practical use, the HA layer must stick tightly, then the material is dried and heated to destroy the bacteria. A micro-manipulation technique used to measure the force needed to overcome the bioglue adhesion showed that dried biofilm stuck 20-times more tightly than fresh biofilm. When coated with HA the adhesion was several times more again. Slightly roughening the surface made the bioglue much more effective.

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