Researchers have a developed a double-duty hydrogel that both attacks the bacteria and encourages bone regrowth with a single application containing two active components.

A researcher prepares hydrogel samples. (Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech).

The injectable hydrogel, which is a network of cross-linked polymer chains, contains the enzyme lysostaphin and the bone-regenerating protein BMP-2. In a new study using a small animal model, researchers showed significant reduction in an infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus — a common infection in orthopedic surgery — along with regeneration within large bone defects.

The researchers chose lysostaphin, an enzyme that kills the bacteria by cleaving cell walls without generating inflammation. The enzyme keeps working within the hydrogel after it polymerizes. Use of lysostaphin in the gel can maintain stability for at least two weeks. That allows for controlled release over a longer period of time.

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