16 November 2015

Primordial goo used to improve implants

CSIRO has developed an innovative new coating that could be used to improve medical devices and implants, thanks to a “goo” thought to be have been home to the building blocks of life.

Better implants inspired by the beginnings of life

Show transcript

[Music plays and text appears on screen: Better implants inspired by the beginnings of life]

[Image changes to show an animation of Earth]

Narrator: The beginning of the little green and blue ball we call home, started with the big bang.

[Image changes to show an animation of Earth and a red explosion over it]

When planet Earth was created, it was a pretty hostile place.

[Image changes to show an animation of a volcano with smoke pluming from it]

There was some water and some gases, but that was about it.

[Image changes to show an animation of a scientist pondering and four animals pop up behind him, a monkey, a frog, a lizard and a fish]

So where did life come from I hear you ask?

[Image changes to show an animation of a pool of goo and inside green and yellow circles, representing the molecules, are popping up inside it]

Well prebiotic chemists think it all happened when the molecules got together in the primordial goo that existed when the planet formed.

[Camera zooms in on the molecules as they adapt and transform]

These molecules, like amino acids, adapted and transformed. They got stronger and more complex. Amino acids, were the building blocks of future of peptides and proteins, which all lead to RNA

[Image changes to show an animation of a DNA strand] then DNA and that was the beginning of life on Earth.

[Image changes back to show the animation of Earth with the scientist standing beside it]

Now this got our scientists thinking that this primordial goo must have been pretty impressive stuff.

[Image changes to show the animation of the goo with the scientist standing beside it] But they wondered how it could be used practically to solve a real world problem.

[Image changes to show an animation of beakers and test tubes with a whiteboard in the background with written equations on it]

By employing the techniques of the prebiotic chemists they created a version of primordial goo and they discovered it could form a coating, it is adhesive and coats almost any material surface.

[Image changes to show an animation of the goo being transformed into the products as the narrator describes above]

From there they added other molecules and discovered that this could have some real applications for the biomedical industry.

[Image changes to show an animation of molecules, a magnifying glass pans over them and enlarges them behind the glass]

Their research shows that the coating can be applied to medical devices, including catheters or implants for bone replacements,

[Image changes to show an animation of a female figure placing an X-ray board in front of her so you can see her skeleton] this could have a range of uses to make implants better by making them antibacterial or more compatible with the human body.

[Image changes to show an animation of the scientist pouring goo from a green beaker into another container labelled Research]

This kind of coating is also much cheaper and easier to apply than current biomedical coatings, potentially helping tens of thousands of implant recipients per year in Australia alone.

[Image changes to show an animation of a female figure wheeling a drip on a trolley. Dark shadows of rows of people appear behind her representing other recipients of implants]

All inspired by the beginnings of life on Earth.

[Image changes back to the animation of Earth]

We’ve sure come a long way from primordial goo.

[Image changes to show an animation of the goo with the scientist standing beside the pool of goo holding a sample in a test tube]

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears on screen with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

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The molecules from this primordial goo – known as prebiotic compounds – can be traced back billions of years and have been studied intensively since their discovery several decades ago.

For the first time, Australian researchers have uncovered a way to use these molecules to assist with medical treatments.

Lead researcher Dr Richard Evans from CSIRO said hundreds of thousands of Australians receive medical implants like bone replacements, catheters and pacemakers every year.

“The human body is a complex system so there is a lot to consider when implanting artificial parts,” Dr Evans said.

“Reducing the likelihood of infection and ensuring the body doesn’t reject implants are ongoing medical challenges.

“That’s why coatings on these implants are needed to help them to do their job.

“We wanted to use these prehistoric molecules, which are believed to have been the source of all life evolving on Earth, to see if we could apply the chemistry in a practical way.”

The team discovered that the coating is bio-friendly and cells readily grow and colonise it.

It could be applied to medical devices to improve their performance and acceptance by the body.

This could assist with a range of medical procedures.

“The non-toxic coating is adhesive and will coat almost any material making its potential biomedical applications really broad,” Dr Evans said.

The researchers also experimented with adding silver compounds, in order to produce an antibacterial coating that can be used on devices such as catheters to avoid infections.

“Other compounds can also be added to implants to reduce friction, make them more durable and resistant to wear,” Dr Evans said.

The coating process the scientists developed is very simple and uses methods and substances that are readily available.

This means biomedical manufacturers can produce improved results more cost effectively compared to existing coatings.

CSIRO is the first organisation to investigate practical applications of this kind using prebiotic chemistry.

“This research opens the door to a host of new biomedical possibilities that are still yet to be explored,” Dr Evans said.

CSIRO is seeking to partner with biomedical manufacturers to exploit this technology.

The findings from the research were published in the Nature journal, Asia Materials today.

The paper is available at Prebiotic-chemistry inspired polymer coatings for biomedical and material science applications

Additional resources

Images

  • Scientist in white lab coat and saftey glasses holding a sequencing tray. Download image

    We've developed a coating for medical devices inspired by the beginnings of life.

  • Hand in rubber glove holding a sequencing tray. Download image

    The bio-friendly caoting could be applied to medical devices to improve performance and acceptance by the body.

  • Well plates and media bottle sitting on lab bench. Download image

    The coating process developed uses methods and substances that are readily available.

  • Dr Richard Evans and Dr Helmut Thissen holding lab equipment. Download image

    Dr Richard Evans and Dr Helmut Thissen have developed a coating for medical devices inspired by the beginnings of life.

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