Shark-inspired surface reduces bacterial growth without causing resistance

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SharkletTM is a synthetic surface inspired by the skin of sharks which deters colonization by certain disease-causing microbes. Because the artificial surface works without killing microbes, there is no selection for resistance. "Sharklet™ is the world’s first technology to inhibit bacterial growth through physical surface modification alone. The surface topography is made of millions of microscopic diamonds that disrupt the ability for bacteria to aggregate, colonize, and develop into biofilms. In bringing Sharklet to market, the pattern has been tested against many gram negative and gram positive strains of bacteria, including clinical isolates, in different media and flow conditions. Bacteria tests include Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis,MRSA, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and VRE. Sharklet tests have been conducted in Sharklet laboratories, independent facilities and United States government agency facilities."(Quoted from the Sharklet website)"Sharklet Technologies’ film-based surface protection products can be applied to germ-prone surfaces to reduce the presence of bacteria. These films can be converted into adhesive-backed “skins” for application to high-touch, bacteria-prone areas such as hospital surfaces, public restrooms, childcare facilities, commercial venues, laboratories and animal research facilities. The film may also be manufactured into the top layer of workspace mats to create immediate and moveable surface protection. "LGInternational , a Portland-Ore.-based manufacturer of bacteria inhibition products, designed to protect environmental surfaces and decrease bacterial attachment, survival, and touch transference, is the first company to sell a bacteria-inhibiting film-based product under the Tactivex™ brand. Tactivex has been deployed into healthcare facilities, research laboratories and other settings where bacterial inhibition is desired."(Quoted from this press release)Learn more about the available product at the Tactivex™ website.

Biomimicry Story

"While the Sharklet pattern holds great promise to improve the way humans co-exist with microorganisms, the pattern was developed far outside of a laboratory. In fact, Sharklet was discovered via a seemingly unrelated problem: how to keep algae from coating the hulls of submarines and ships. In 2002, Dr. Anthony Brennan, a materials science and engineering professor at the University of Florida, was visiting the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Oahu as part of Navy-sponsored research. The U.S. Office of Naval Research solicited Dr. Brennan to find new antifouling strategies to reduce use of toxic antifouling paints and trim costs associated with dry dock and drag. "Dr. Brennan was convinced that using an engineered topography could be a key to new antifouling technologies. Clarity struck as he and several colleagues watched an algae-coated nuclear submarine return to port. Dr. Brennan remarked that the submarine looked like a whale lumbering into the harbor. In turn, he asked which slow moving marine animals don’t foul. The only one? The shark. "Dr. Brennan was inspired to take an actual impression of shark skin, or more specifically, its dermal denticles. Examining the impression with scanning electron microscopy, Dr. Brennan confirmed his theory. Shark skin denticles are arranged in a distinct diamond pattern with tiny riblets. Dr. Brennan measured the ribs’ width-to-height ratios which corresponded to his mathematical model for roughness – one that would discourage microorganisms from settling. The first test of Sharklet yielded impressive results. Sharklet reduced green algae settlement by 85 percent compared to smooth surfaces."(Quoted from the Sharklet website)

Challenges Solved

"Since the discovery of bacteria, conventional thinking has led people to kill microorganisms to control them. Yet, overuse and abuse of antibiotics, disinfectants and other kill strategies have contributed to the creation of superbugs such as MRSA and others commonly found in hospitals and the general community. As biocidal approaches have made bacteria stronger, new strategies are needed to manage bacterial growth while contributing to an overall healthy environment to protect people. Such a solution may be found in Sharklet™. "Sharklet is a simple solution for a complex problem. The patented, microscopic pattern manufactured by Sharklet Technologies creates a surface upon which bacteria do not like to grow. The Sharklet pattern is manufactured onto adhesive-backed skins that may be applied to high-touch areas to reduce the transfer of bacteria among people. Sharklet Technologies is also developing Sharklet-patterned medical devices including a Sharklet Urinary Catheter to help reduce hospital-acquired infections."(Quoted from the Sharklet website)

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