In an unprecedented achievement, scientists make "printed" materials that resist bacteria

New manufacturing technology gives the material antimicrobial properties, with scope to improve the safety of implants, including heart valves and stents.

A team of researchers has revealed a new way to use 3D printing to create infection-fighting materials that could be used as medical implants in the future. The researchers published details of this innovation in a new paper in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

Printed material kills bacteria

In an unprecedented feat, the team of researchers from the Universities of Bath and Ulster in Britain has succeeded in creating a new type of ferroelectric composite material with antibacterial properties using a 3D printing process.

According to a statement published on the University of Bath website on the sixth of April, the use of this new type of material in the manufacture of good implants will give them anti-bacterial properties, making them ideal for biomedical applications. such as heart valves and orthopedic implants, thus reducing the risk of infection for patients.

The test conducted by the researchers on the printed matter showed that it completely eliminates bacteria cells without external interference, killing 70% of them within only 15 minutes, as stated in the statement, even when contaminated with high concentrations of Escherichia coli bacteria known for their aggressiveness and extreme resistance. .

Clostridium botulism pathogens - 3d illustration - Illustrations
Innovative materials enable the elimination of 70% of bacteria in less than 15 minutes (Getty Images)

What are these materials made of?

The credit for this innovation is due to the property of ferrous electricity or “ferroelectricity” that some materials enjoy and makes them have two electrodes, one of which has a positive charge and the other a negative charge. This property enables materials to generate a surface electric charge when subjected to mechanical pressure or to high temperature. This electrical charge in membranes and electrodes made of these materials leads to the formation of free radicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), which selectively kill bacteria.

The researchers made the antibacterial composite material by incorporating microparticles of ferroelectric properties calcium zirconium titanate (BCZT) into a biodegradable polymer widely used in biomedical applications, called Polycaprolactone.

They then used the mixture as the ink in a 3D bio-printer to create a "scaffold" shape designed to have a high surface area with the goal of promoting the formation of reactive oxygen free radicals.

Bacteria resistant teeth

Although this is the first time that researchers have achieved the manufacture of medical implants that are resistant to bacteria using 3D printing, Dutch researchers have previously managed to manufacture antibacterial teeth using this technology.

Futuristic illustration of a tooth created with a 3D printer.
Dutch researchers managed to manufacture antibacterial printed teeth in 2015 (Getty Images)

According to the study , which they published in the journal "New Scientist" in 2015, the research team developed a process for manufacturing 3D-printed teeth and braces capable of destroying bacteria using a special type of antimicrobial resin (resin).

To create the resin, the researchers mixed antibacterial ammonium salts with regular dental resins. The positive charge on the resin gives the resin its bacteria-killing property, disrupting the negatively charged bacterial membranes and causing them to explode and die.

The team then exposed the resulting mixture to ultraviolet light and used it as the ink inside a 3D printer to print samples of the replacement teeth. Test results on replacement tooth samples showed that the substance was effective in destroying tooth decay-causing bacteria by up to 99 percent.

The authors of the new study believe that the created ferroelectric materials will have great potential as antimicrobial materials and surfaces in the future, so they will work to develop them further through collaboration with medical researchers or healthcare providers.

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