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Surface-modified silicone elastomer for medical and drug delivery devices with reduced bacterial adherence and biofilm formation

School of Pharmacy

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Dr L Carson , Prof K Malcolm Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

All implanted medical devices, including those fabricated from silicone elastomers, are susceptible colonisation with communities of microorganisms that colonise the surface of the device and rapidly establish biofilm populations. This has serious consequences for the patient, as it is a prelude to both clinical infection, and device failure. Critically, at least half of all cases of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are associated with the use of implanted medical devices.
Numerous strategies have been investigated, with limited success, for reducing bacterial adherence and biofilm formation at the surface of polymeric drug delivery and medical devices. In this project, we aim to exploit our detailed understanding of the chemistry of silicone elastomers to develop a new method for grafting protective molecules to the surface of pre-fabricated medical and drug delivery devices to reduce bacterial adherence and biofilm formation when inserted in vivo.
We have previously reported that drug molecules having certain chemical functional groups are able to chemically and irreversibly bind to the most common type of silicone elastomer (known as an addition-cure silicone elastomer). Briefly, drugs with certain unsaturated moieties are able to react with the highly reactive hydrosilane groups contained in the silicone elastomer, in competition with the normal silicone elastomer crosslinking reaction. This reaction is a hindrance to drug product development, since the bound drug can no longer be released from the device. However, it may be possible to exploit this reaction to purposefully attach modifying groups to the surface of silicone elastomer devices. In particular, this may prove a viable and practical strategy for modifying the surface of the device in order to reduce bacterial biofilm formation.
A particularly interesting concept would involve the grafting of specially-functionalised polymers and dendron molecules to the silicone elastomer surface in a bid to significantly modify the surface characteristics of the silicone elastomer and to create an effective barrier to incoming proteins and microorganisms, with the aim of developing materials offering resistance to bacterial attachment and subsequent biofilm formation. The cross-disciplinary project will provide an excellent opportunity for extensive training in a diverse range of scientific disciplines, including basic chemistry, polymer science, microbiology, advanced analytical methods and medical device fabrication.

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a 1st or 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Molecular Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, or a closely related discipline. Students who have a 2.2 honours degree and a Master’s degree may also be considered, but the School reserves the right to shortlist for interview only those applicants who have demonstrated high academic attainment to date

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