Researchers are carrying out a range of groundbreaking experiments to test whether mimicking the nanopatterns of the dragonfly wing on orthopedic implants can kill harmful bacteria that cause infections.

The four-year project could give scientists and clinicians a critical breakthrough in their global fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria and is intended to create new technologies and processes to benefit the wider manufacturing sector.

An orthopedic surgeon involved in clinical research says implant infection post-surgery is a billion dollar problem worldwide, affecting around 2–3 percent of medical implants, including devices to stabilize fractures, hip and knee replacements, and spinal implants.

Scientists will combine their expertise to create titanium implants with the dragonfly wing surface while confirming their safety and testing their bacteria-killing properties.

The bacteria-busting qualities of the dragonfly were first identified by researchers who observed bacteria being killed on the insects’ wings, characterized by tiny spikes — nanopillars — which are about one thousandth of the thickness of a human hair. The research project is reshaping not only the future of the medical device industry, but potentially other sectors as well.

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