Combat-related injuries have long plagued the military in part because of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Imagine being able to spray a compound fracture with microcapsules that deliver a drug to bolster the immune system, stopping infection before it starts.
That technology might be around the corner, says Bingyun Li, PhD, of the West Virginia University Department of Orthopaedics and director of the WVU Biomaterials, Bioengineering & Nanotechnology Laboratory. Li’s team has developed a drug-delivery technology involving microcapsules – and a second technique, nanocoating – that have been shown to work in animal studies.
Results of the team’s research involving the drug interleukin-12, a drug currently in anti-cancer clinical trials, has been published in the May issue of the journal Biomaterials. A deeper explanation of the approach, which could develop into an alternative to antibiotic therapy, is scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.
“These pioneering techniques could be important to the United States because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Li says. “The treatment of battlefield casualties is expensive, and the infection rate runs from 2 percent to 15 percent. In some cases, because the organisms have developed resistance, antibiotics don’t work.”
Outside the arena of warfare, millions of people could potentially be helped by the technology because infections can result whenever a biomedical device is implanted.