An E. coli bacteria lying on a bed of nano-nails. (Credit: Professor Bo Su/University of Bristol)

Using a range of advanced imaging tools, functional assays, and proteomic analyses, a study has identified new ways in which nano-pillars can damage bacteria. These findings will aid the design of better antimicrobial surfaces for potential biomedical applications such as medical implants and devices that are not reliant on antibiotics.

The study shows that the antibacterial effects of nanopillars are actually multifactorial, nanotopography- and species-dependent. Alongside deformation and subsequent penetration of the bacterial cell envelope by nanopillars, the key to the antibacterial properties of these nanopillars might also be the cumulative effects of physical impedance and induction of oxidative stress, the researchers say.

The researchers hope to translate this expanded understanding of nanopillar-bacteria interactions into the design of improved biomaterials for use in real world applications.

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