Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed an antibacterial hydrogel that can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The material is designed as a wound dressing and is made up of antimicrobial peptides that are naturally produced by the immune system. Ice binds and protects peptides, although it allows them to kill bacteria.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing crisis. Infections caused by resistant bacteria can be extremely difficult to treat and cause significant levels of suffering and death each year. If new treatments and technologies are not developed in time, even routine surgery can become an unacceptable risk prospect without the means to prevent or treat postoperative infections.
To avoid this dystopian future, researchers are resorting to new materials and techniques to kill these bacteria. The new hydrogel is a good example.
“With this type of peptides, there is a very low risk for the bacteria to develop resistance against them, as they only affect the outermost membrane of the bacteria. Maybe that’s the main reason they’re so interesting to work with, ”said Martin Andersson, a researcher involved in the study.
While peptides are very effective, they are also quite delicate and degrade quickly when they come in contact with blood. This has been an important limiting factor for researchers hoping to use them as antibacterial treatment. However, Swedish researchers have discovered a way to protect peptides while maintaining their effectiveness.
They bound the peptides inside a protective hydrogel, meaning they degrade much more slowly, and the resulting hydrogel is very suitable as a topical treatment for wounds. “The material is very promising. It is harmless to the body’s own cells and gentle to the skin. In our measurements, the protective effect of hydrogel on antimicrobial peptides is clear: peptides degrade much more slowly when bound to them, ”said Edvin Blomstrand, another researcher involved in the study.
Researchers have developed a so-called spin-off company Amferia AB working in technology marketing.
Study a ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering: Mesoporous hydrogels functionalized with antimicrobial peptides