Dragonfly-inspired implants to address post-surgery infection

3 July 2018 (Last Updated July 3rd, 2018 11:43)

A team from the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia (UniSA) is initiating a new research project inspired by dragonfly wing structure to develop new medical implants for minimising the risk of post-surgery infection in orthopaedic cases.

Dragonfly-inspired implants to address post-surgery infection
Based on dragonfly wings containing spikes that can kill bacteria, researchers are developing antimicrobial orthopaedic implants. Credit: Neil Saunders.

A team from the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia (UniSA) is initiating a new research project inspired by dragonfly wing structure to develop new medical implants for minimising the risk of post-surgery infection in orthopaedic cases.

The dragonfly wings contain tiny spikes that destroy bacteria, and the researchers intend to utilise a nano-modification technology based on this structure and coat the new implants with an antimicrobial surface.

“After completion of the development, the technology will be commercialised by Global Orthopaedic Technology, which is providing $3m investment for the research project.”

Under the $20m, four-year medical and manufacturing project, the team is currently performing various experiments to determine if leveraging the nano-patterns of the dragonfly wing for orthopaedic implants can destroy infection-causing bacteria.

Researcher and orthopaedic surgeon professor Richard de Steiger said: “There has been minimal improvement in orthopaedic infection rates for the past 15 years.

“Infection after surgery is a devastating problem, costing not only hundreds of millions of dollars in additional surgery worldwide but leading to more trauma for patients. They may need extra recovery time after further operations, which are not always successful and pose an even greater risk of infection.”

The researchers plan to develop titanium implants. Their safety and bacteria-killing properties will be validated at the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Orthopaedic and Trauma Research (COTR) and UniSA’s Musculoskeletal Biotest Facility.

After completion of the development, the technology will be commercialised by Global Orthopaedic Technology, which is providing $3m investment for the research project.

It is expected that the antibacterial nature of the nano surface will facilitate its application in other industries such as hospital supplies and equipment, food, marine, building products, and aeronautical.