INSECT WINGS MIGHT BE THE NEW WEAPON AGAINST ‘SUPERBUGS’ A team of scientists has revealed hownanomaterials inspired by insect wings are able to destroy bacteria on contact, which holds promise for a new era of biomedical antimicrobial nanotechnology. The wings of cicadas and dragonflies are natural bacteria killers, a phenomenon that has spurred researchers searching for ways to defeat drug-resistant superbugs. New anti-bacterial surfaces are being developed, featuring different nanopatterns that mimic the deadly action of insect wings, which can stretch, slice or tear bacteria apart on contact.
A pioneer in biomimetic antibacterial surfaces, Distinguished Professor Elena Ivanova leads the
Mechano-bactericidal Surfaces research group in the School of Science at RMIT University, and is a Chief Investigator at the ARC Training Centre in Surface Engineering for Advanced Materials and the ARC Research Hub for Australian Steel Innovation . ‘Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to global health, and routine treatment of infection is becoming increasingly difficult,’ says Professor Ivanova. ‘If we can understand exactly how insect-inspired nanopatterns kill bacteria, we can be more precise in engineering these shapes to improve their effectiveness against infections. Our ultimate goal is to develop low-cost and scaleable anti-bacterial surfaces for use in implants and in hospitals, to deliver powerful new weapons in the fight against deadly superbugs.’
‘BACTERIAL RESISTANCE TO ANTIBIOTICS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST THREATS TO GLOBAL HEALTH AND ROUTINE TREATMENT OF INFECTION IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT.’ DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR ELENA IVANOVA.
(Top) Common whitetail dragonfly. Credit: Public domain image by Christopher Johnson (Insects Unlocked, University of Texas at Austin). (Below) The nanopillars on the surface of a dragonfly wing (magnified 20,000 times). Credit: RMIT University.
IMPROVING HEALTH ANDWELLBEING
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