In September 2016 the UMCG Groningen started an EU funded project PRONKJEWAIL. The research aims to protect people who are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases. PRONKJEWAIL (‘a real gem’) will train 16 PhD students in the field of hospital care and infection. PRONKJEWAIL is recruiting 16 international PhD students, who will be trained in research, transferable skills, as well as network and capacity building. They will be guided by experienced supervisors from the departments of Medical Microbiology, Internal Medicine, Intensive Care, Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Paediatrics, Surgery, Cell Biology, and Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at the UMCG. 26 international partner organisations, including 14 private sector partners, are committed to support ESR training via mentoring, courses and secondments.
Research projects are clustered in four thematic Pillars:
Each Pillar integrates fundamental, translational and clinical/epidemiological research projects.
PRONKJEWAIL will strengthen the regional and European research into infections and, ultimately, it will contribute to enhanced public health and stimulate innovation in this field. By providing excellent training, PRONKJEWAIL will develop new talent within the next generation of medical researchers thereby strengthening the European Research Area. Locally PRONKJEWAIL will impact innovative SMEs in the field of hospital care, translational research and medtech.
PRONKJEWAIL has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sclodowska-Curie grant agreement 713660.
Biomaterial implants are successfully applied in modern medicine to restore human function; examples being total hip replacements, vascular grafts or dental implants. In addition, biomaterial devices are also used as temporary support systems, like urinary or central venous catheters.
Although successful in the majority of patients, often bacterial infections occur around these implanted devices. These so called biomaterial-associated infections form a most devastating complication in on average 5% of all implants and often lead to their replacement since these infections are extremely difficult to treat with antibiotics.
The design of alternative anti-infection strategies is complicated since they should not impede the proper function of the implant. Some implants, such as permanent artificial total hips, need a firm and permanent attachment to bone tissue, whereas temporary implants, like urinary or intravenous catheters should be easily removable.
Tailor-made strategies are therefore essential in the design of antimicrobial implants and devices in different clinical settings.
To this end, scientists of the University Medical Center of Groningen and DSM, The Netherlands, developed a modular coating-concept for biomaterials. They designed a robust hydrophilic coating that promotes permanent non-adhesiveness for proteins and bacteria, which can be applied on top of a base-coating that slowly releases the antimicrobial chlorhexidine. To complete the tri-module system, they enhanced tissue integration (when clinically required) by incorporating peptides in the coating, which enhances cell attachment Each of these modules can be applied separately, thus providing the medical device industry with a powerful and versatile technology to render effective antimicrobial activity for different devices with specific requirements.
Uniquely, none of the modules suppressed the functionality of the others when combined in a multi-layer coating. This modular independence makes the tri-modular approach a promising method for preparation of high performance biomaterials and an attractive means towards cost-economic downward clinical application.
The potential to control bacterial growth in combination with tissue integration for various implants and devices could open a new chapter in the design of novel biomaterials.
Over 60% of all human infections treated by physicians are due to biofilms; examples being oral biofilms and biofilms involved in a variety of pathological conditions like for instance osteomyelitis, chronic otitis media, the infected diabetic foot, chronic bacterial prostatitis or in biomaterial associated infections. In a biofilm, microorganisms produce extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) that embed biofilm inhabitants in a protective matrix. The biofilm matrix not only provides a microenvironment for microbial growth, catalysis, and communication, but also protects its inhabitants against environmental challenges, such as UV exposure, acids, or antimicrobials.
Van Leeuwenhoek reported in 1684 that “the vinegar with which I washt my teeth, kill’d only those animals which were on the outside of the scurf, but did not pass thro the whole substance of it”. Since then little progress has been made in making biofilms more susceptible to antimicrobial treatment until now. UMCG and Chinese researchers have found the answer, described in a new paper published in ACS Nano. They describe a highly effective pathway to control blood-accessible staphylococcal biofilms using antimicrobials, bypassing biofilm recalcitrance to antimicrobial penetration. This pathway has the potential to provide a much needed alternative for the control of biofilm-related infections in the human body in a time where antibiotic resistance is becoming more and more rampant every year.
Hosted by the rural village community of Thesinge, the Thesinge biofilm meetings have provided a unique scientific forum for a small, select group of maximally 100 people active in the field, collected for two days "away from it all" to focus formally and informally on biofilms, with emphasis on biofilms in dentistry and on biomaterials implants and medical devices.
Thesinge biofilm meetings seek to provide open, provocative discourse to stimulate thinking and creative approaches in a friendly, family-style atmosphere. There are no proceedings, only an abstract/program book, and active exchange.
What’s it about?
Biofilms cause ~65% of all human infections and are especially troublesome when adhered on biomaterial implants and devices, including teeth. Current research focuses on counting numbers of adhering microbes or determining biofilm volumes. Questions about “how do bacteria know they are on a surface”, and “how do they regulate their response to different surfaces” have been largely ignored so far, but might provide new clues to developing new preventive measures against biomaterial-associated infections.
Therefore the focus of the 6th Thesinge biofilm meeting will be centred around:
Objectives/goals : All participants are asked to contribute intellectual and other creative input to inspiring new information, new ideas, new approaches and new expertise to participants, but to always address the meeting’s focus question in their final slide.
Symposium format: Informal single-track sessions with participation limited to 100 people. Emphasis is on exchange and discussion, and the program is set up such that we try to allow as many participants as possible to give a presentation. The floor is open!
The meeting starts with a brief introduction to the importance of bacterial surface-sensing by Henk Busscher (W.J. Kolff Institute, University Medical Center and University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands) and includes key-note presentations by three authoritative scientists in the field:
We distinguish three different types of scheduled presentations and off-the-floor presentations by participants:
Selected lectures: Participants selected by the organizers invited to give 20-min lectures
Mini lectures: Participants selected by the organizers invited to give 10-min lectures
Off-the-floor: Opportunities for 5-min “hot topic” or “point-counterpoint” off-the-floor-addresses at the close of each day under the stimulating leadership of David Grainger.
WEB-site will be opened for registration February 2016.
Getting fitted for a false tooth or other dental treatment tends to involve a mouthful of foul-tasting gunk and plaster casts. But now dentists are moving to high-tech digital scanning and 3D printing. That switch opens the door to more advanced materials that could improve your oral hygiene.
Andreas Herrmann of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and his colleagues have developed an antimicrobial plastic, allowing them to 3D print teeth that also kill bacteria. It’s an important issue, say the team, because bacterial damage to existing implants costs patients millions of dollars in the US alone.
The team embedded antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts inside existing dental resin polymers. The salts are positively charged and so disrupt the negatively charged bacterial membranes, causing them to burst and die. “The material can kill bacteria on contact, but on the other hand it’s not harmful to human cells,” says Hermann.
Then they put this mix in a 3D printer, hardened it with ultraviolet light and printed out a range of dental objects such as replacement teeth and orthodontic braces. To test its antimicrobial properties, they coated samples of the material in mix of saliva and Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that causes tooth decay. They found the material killed over 99 per cent of the bacteria, compared to less than 1 per cent for a control sample without the added salts.
Further tests will have to be done before the material can be rolled out to patients, as the team only left the samples in the saliva and bacteria mix for six days. “For clinical used we need to extend this, and investigate the compatibility with toothpaste,” says Herrmann.
They also need to confirm the plastic is strong enough to use as a tooth, but he thinks it shouldn’t take too long. “It’s a medical product with a foreseeable application in the near future, much less time than developing a new drug.”
Journal reference: Advanced Functional Materials, DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201502384
(Image: J. Yue, P. Zhao, J. Y. Gerasimov et al)