A University of Central Florida researcher is part of a recently announced $1.4 million National Institutes of Health grant to help develop a new coating material for catheters and other medical devices that resists infections, blood clots and biofilms.

This is important because reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health estimate there are 80,000 catheter-related bloodstream infections in the U.S. each year, which result in as many as 28,000 deaths and more than $2 billion in increased healthcare costs.

Current commercially available catheters have coatings that either reduce the risk of bacterial infection or prevent blood clots, but not both. However, the UCF-developed material is planned to be multifunctional so that it can both resist infections and blood clots, as well as stop biofilms, or the accumulation of bacteria or organic matter that can spread disease.

“There is an urgent need to develop catheters that are resistant to such complications,” says Elizabeth Brisbois, an assistant professor in UCF’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and principal investigator of the research.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to develop new intravascular catheter materials that can simultaneously prevent clotting and eradicate microbial infections,” she says. “If these materials are successful, they could also have significant benefits for other blood-contacting devices beyond catheters, such as complex extracorporeal life support, hemodialysis, vascular grafts and more.”

Brisbois is collaborating with Hitesh Handa, an assistant professor in the School of Chemical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Georgia. Handa and his research team will focus on evaluating the blood and material interactions and perform animal studies to evaluate the long-term resistance to clotting and infection of the new intravascular catheters that will be designed and optimized in Brisbois’ lab.

Past work by Brisbois has shown that incorporating nitric oxide coatings into plastic medical devices can prevent bacterial infections and help prevent blood clots, and creating slippery surfaces on them can inhibit biofilms. Her lab’s new focus will be to achieve all of these functions in a single coating.

Brisbois says the devices would still need to go through commercial development and regulatory approval before being available to the public, but the data from the research will help expedite the process.

Brisbois received her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Michigan and worked as a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow in UM’s Department of Surgery. She is a member of UCF’s Biionix Cluster and joined UCF’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, which is part of UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, in 2017.

Story by Robert Wells, UCF Office of Research