Infections be damned as NUI Galway centre creates new implant device

22 Jun 2017

Image: Samrith Na Lumpoon/Shutterstock

Infections caused by implants could soon be a thing of the past, as a team from Cúram reveals its latest creation.

The Cúram medical device research centre at NUI Galway – recently profiled on – is one of Ireland’s newest and leading R&D centres working with both industry and academia.

While its research areas are far-ranging, Cúram’s latest innovation could help to prevent serious illnesses and death caused by unwanted infection when an implantable device is placed in the human body.

In a paper published to Biomedical Materials, Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis – who also works in the Regenerative, Modular and Developmental Engineering Laboratory (REMODEL) – revealed a new device, also implantable, that is designed to provide localised drug treatment and prevent infection.

During initial testing, this invention has already proven effective against two types of major device infection bacteria, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis.

If developed, patients are likely to spend large amounts of time in hospital, with the possibility of more surgeries to replace or remove the infected implant, which could lead to sepsis if not treated in time.

The research team first identified the optimal hexamethylene diisocyanate (HMDI) concentration, which would offer suitable biomechanical, biochemical and biological properties as well as being an approved cross-linking agent for collagen-based medical devices.

It was then a matter of cross-linking the collagen scaffolds with variable concentrations of the antibiotics Cefaclor and Ranalexin to identify the minimum effective concentration required to inhibit the growth of the two major infection culprits.

Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis

Lead author Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, REMODEL and Cúram, NUI Galway. Image: NUIG

‘An important step forward’

Until now, however, no ideal scaffold cross-linking with a drug has been found.

“The development of our drug-loaded collagen device marks an important step forward,” said Zeugolis.

“First, the sustained and localised delivery system that we developed avoids issues associated with systemic drug administration, such as antibiotic resistance. Further, we contributed towards finding a solution against a severe economic burden to healthcare systems internationally.”

Cúram’s scientific director, Prof Abhay Pandit, said the new device will help the centre to “develop affordable transformative solutions to improve quality of life for people suffering from chronic illnesses”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic