Researchers have engineered surface coatings that can repel everything, such as bacteria, viruses, and living cells, but can be modified to permit beneficial exceptions. The discovery holds significant promise for medical applications, making it possible for implants such as vascular grafts, replacement heart valves, and artificial joints to bond to the body without risk of infection or blood clotting.

Researchers developed a repellent surface that can be selectively targeted to adhere to materials that offer beneficial exceptions. (Credit: McMaster University)

The new nanotechnology has the potential to greatly reduce false positives and negatives in medical tests by eliminating interference from non-target elements in blood and urine.

Outside the body, selectively designed repellent surfaces could make diagnostic tests much more accurate by allowing only the particular target of a test — a virus, bacterium, or cancer cell, for example — to stick to the biosensor that is looking for it, a critical advantage given the challenges of testing in complex fluids such as blood and urine.

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