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Extending the Safety of Implanted Medical Devices

NSF Award:

Adsorption of Treponema Pallidum Protein to Functionalized Alkanethiol Self-Assembled Monolayers for Improving Biocompatibility  (University of Kentucky Research Foundation)

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An NSF-funded chemical engineer has demonstrated that a specialized coating on the surface of implanted medical devices, including stents and catheters, can reduce the chances of clotting and other side effects in patients.

This finding could lead to the development of longer-lasting medical devices that produce fewer side effects from cell adhesion and clot formation.

Medical devices that come in contact with blood increasingly replace, repair or rejuvenate human body parts and tissues and include:

  • Heart-lung machines
  • Hollow fibers used in kidney dialyzing machines
  • Catheters for blood access and blood vessel manipulation
  • Stents for blood vessels
  • Devices for the replacement of diseased heart valves and arteries
  • Prosthetics to replace bone

While these devices provide improved health and life spans, they do involve risks.

Proteins, cells and blood clots can coat the implants once they're in place. Often, these biofilms release particles into the blood stream, resulting in stroke or kidney failure.

Kimberly Anderson of the University of Kentucky has shown that coating the surfaces of medical devices with a specific bacterial protein combination makes it harder for cell adhesion and clot formation to occur.

She combined protein isolated from Treponema pallidum, a type of bacteria, with a serum protein known as fibronectin to create the protective coating.


  • A.  In a normal immune response, proteins and platelets adhere.  B.  When the surface is immobilized with a bacterial protein, absorption is inhibited.  Credit: Kimberly Anderson
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