Dual-Functional Surfaces Based on an Antifouling Polymer and a Natural Antibiofilm Molecule: Prevention of Biofilm Formation without Using Biocides
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Pathogenic biofilms formed on the surfaces of implantable medical devices and materials pose an urgent global healthcare problem. Although conventional antibacterial surfaces based on bacteria-repelling or bacteria-killing strategies can delay biofilm formation to some extent, they usually fail in long-term applications, and it remains challenging to eradicate recalcitrant biofilms once they are established and mature. From the viewpoint of microbiology, a promising strategy may be to target the middle stage of biofilm formation including the main biological processes involved in biofilm development. In this work, a dual-functional antibiofilm surface is developed based on copolymer brushes of 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA) and 3-(acrylamido)phenylboronic acid (APBA), with quercetin (Qe, a natural antibiofilm molecule) incorporated via acid-responsive boronate ester bonds. Due to the antifouling properties of the hydrophilic poly(HEMA) component, the resulting surface is able to suppress bacterial adhesion and aggregation in the early stages of contact. A few bacteria are eventually able to break through the protection of the anti-adhesion layer leading to bacterial colonization. In response to the resulting decrease in the pH of the microenvironment, the surface could then release Qe to interfere with the microbiological processes related to biofilm formation. Compared to bactericidal and anti-adhesive surfaces, this dual-functional surface showed significantly improved antibiofilm performance to prevent biofilm formation involving both Gram-negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus for up to 3 days. In addition, both the copolymer and Qe are negligibly cytotoxic, thereby avoiding possible harmful effects on adjacent normal cells and the risk of bacterial resistance. This dual-functional design approach addresses the different stages of biofilm formation, and (in accordance with the growth process of the biofilm) allows sequential activation of the functions without compromising the viability of adjacent normal cells. A simple and reliable solution may thus be provided to the problems associated with biofilms on surfaces in various biomedical applications.