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May 15, 2018

Project Spotlight: CHARM – Treating and Preventing Craniofacial Infections

In an effort to enhance treatment and prevent infection resulting from undergoing cranioplasty, the CAMRIS Craniofacial Health and Restorative Medicine (CHARM) team at the Naval Medical Research Unit – San Antonio (NAMRU – SA) works to discourage initial bacterial adhesion onto the surface of commonly used titanium implants.

This research involves a multistep process, the first of which defined surface characterization through variables such as wettability, surface energy, microstructure, and surface roughness. With the characterization established, the team tested surfaces exposed to bacteria using a flow cell. By utilizing reflective confocal laser microscopy in real time, the team can better understand the adhesion of bacteria to the surfaces in question.

Additionally, the study is designed to monitor and analyze biofilm growth and maturation on surfaces. The team studies the effects of biofilm growth on titanium implant surfaces by using scanning electron microscopy and multiple fluorescent probes. Such technology allows the team to view three-dimensional biofilm structures down to the nanoscale level.

A last step in the study is to test what types of titanium surface coatings best mitigate bacterial growth and infection. The team is developing inhibitory coatings and unique nano-topographies to be applied to the surfaces, and has devised mathematical modeling of these enhanced surfaces prior to commencement of testing. Similar to the methods applied to the portion of the project looking at the surface itself, the coating stage also relies upon bacterial biofilm growth and adhesion analysis to determine the effectiveness of coating.

CAMRIS makes decisions related to surfacing, surfacing protocols, and flow cell design, and has full responsibility for biofilm analysis, including two selection of bacteria species to use for analysis, and for the development of protocols for visualization and analysis. Upon study completion, the CHARM team will write a manuscript with a CAMRIS employee as the first author.

You can learn more about the CHARM project here.