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Creating a permanent bacteria barrier

Any medical device implanted in the body attracts bacteria, proteins, and other microbes to its surface, causing infections and thrombosis (blood clotting) that lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. Devices can be coated with antibiotics, blood thinners, and other agents — but these eventually dissolve, limiting their longevity and effectiveness.

Now, Semprus BioSciences, a startup co-founded by two MIT alumni — Christopher Loose PhD ’07 and CEO David Lucchino MBA ’06 — is developing a novel biomaterial for implanted medical devices that permanently barricades these troublesome microbes from the device’s surface.

The biomaterial is a nonleaching polymeric sulfobetaine (polySB) that, when applied to a medical device, sprouts a thicket of polymers that attract water, creating an impenetrable barrier for microbes. Its chemical makeup also mimics that of cells important to homeostasis, potentially reducing the body’s natural rejection of implanted devices.

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