Smart Antiseptic Materials for Biomedicine


The application of biodegradable materials in numerous fields such as biomedical technology has recently showed great interest owing to their excellent properties and environmental friendliness. Unfortunately, biomedical devices fabricated from biodegradable polymers are hit by a major drawback that threatens to endanger the medical field if not appropriately addressed. For instance, such devices suffer from bacterial contamination and infections since they provide the breeding ground for the biofilms both on the surfaces and within the bulks. To this end, there is a need to develop biomedical devices with antibacterial properties to withstand the bacterial growth.

Among the materials used in biomedical applications, polydimethylsiloxane exhibit great properties such as compatibility, ease of fabrication, low cost among others. However, it has poor wetting properties and its hydrophobicity cannot support biological liquids responsible for washing the bacterial elements. On the other hand, the main methods for inducing antibacterial properties to polymers include surface modification and developing biocidal leaching surfaces. The former involves the development of bactericidal or anti-adhesion surfaces while the latter involves releasing cytotoxic compounds that diffuse from the surface material.

In a recent research paper published in Chemical Engineering Journal Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Genoa, Italy) researchers: Dr. Evie L. Papadopoulou, Dr. Paola Valentini, Dr. Francesca Mussino, Dr. Pier Paolo Pompa, Dr. Athanassia Athanassiou, Dr. Ilker S. Bayer fabricated a new antibacterial material to withstand bacterial growth. The material was based on polydimethylsiloxane combined with starch bioelastomeric composite containing povidone-iodine with antiseptic properties. The research team demonstrated the complexity of the iodine in starch using the Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer and micro Raman measurements. Furthermore, the release of povidone-iodine was investigated for different concentrations and verified by the UV-vis spectrometry. Eventually, an agar test was performed to determine the antibacterial properties of the fabricated material against the E. coli bacteria.

Generally, a robust bioelastomer composite can be formed between the polydimethylsiloxane and starch while povidone-iodine is incorporated to enhance the antibacterial properties of the resulting material. When immersed in water, water gets absorbed by the bioelastomer part thus acting as a solvent for the povidone-iodine. Even though the release of iodine was small, it depended on the concentration of the povidone-iodine. For instance, this could go up to 10% of the total povidone-iodine in the composite.

The authors observed that the fabricated povidone-iodine bioelastomers exhibited excellent antibacterial properties against the E. coli bacteria. This was attributed to the bacteriostatic effect that increased linearly with the increase in the povidone-iodine concentration. In addition, the experimental results showed that after the emersion of povidone-iodine in water, the antibacterial activities could last for more than one month.

The study by Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia scientists has successfully presented the fabrication of antibacterial polydimethylsiloxane-based polymer. Owing to its efficient biocompatibility and capability for use as biomedical material in a situation requiring prolonged antibacterial properties, the fabricated material will be a key contributor to the medical field. It will significantly reduce the contamination and infections of the biomedical tools thus advance surgeries and other medical operations. Also, it can be used as a reference for future work to improve further the materials.

Smart Antiseptic Materials for Biomedicine - Advances in Engineering

The figure illustrates in an artistic manner the main result of our manuscript. Starch from potatoes and povidone-iodine powder are mixed in a PDMS matrix to make the orange film shown in the left panel. When this film is immersed in water, the film becomes blue-black due to the formation of the starch-iodine complex, where the iodine ions are embedded in the amylose helix of the starch, rendering the material is antibacterial.

About the author

Evie L. Papadopoulou obtained her BSc (with Honors) in Physics from the University of Sussex (UK, 1996) and her PhD in superconductivity from the Department of Materials Science at Uppsala University (Sweden, 2001). After finishing her PhD, she worked for two years on Raman spectroscopy, as postdoctoral fellow at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA, Greece) after obtaining an ENTER personal reintegration grant. In 2004 she moved to Crete as Adjunct Senior Lecturer, at the Department of Materials Science and Technology at the University of Crete (Heraklion, Greece). In parallel, she worked as a PostDoc and then Contracted Researcher, at the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) at the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) in Heraklion, where she studied laser ablation phenomena.

She has been contracted by 2 European projects for the development of thin films by pulsed laser deposition (PLD), namely FENIKS and NATCO, while she has also collaborated with numerous researchers from Europe in the frame of Ultraviolet Laser Facility (ULF)-LaserLab Europe, from the side of FORTH. As a part of the WIROX European project, she spent 2 months (July-August 2012) in Pretoria, South Africa, working at CSIR.

Since October 2012, she is working at the Smart Materials Group at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genoa (Italy) where she studies the physical and chemical properties of new polymer composites, made by solution processing or electrospinning. She focuses on novel applications of polymer nanocomposites, like sensors and tissue engineering.

About the author

Paola Valentini has multidisciplinary background and professional experience. After her M.Sc. (full marks, 110/110) in Medicinal Chemistry (University of Rome “La Sapienza” and Utrecht University, NL), she moved to Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, where she obtained her PhD (70/70 cum laude) in Molecular Biology, investigating the interaction between HIV-1 integrase and cellular acetyl-transferases. She then served a year in the Regulatory sector of a multinational pharmaceutical company (Sanofi-Aventis), and obtained a Master in International Business (MIB) from “La Cattolica” University in Milan. In 2012 she moved to Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Lecce, and later on in Genoa, where she is presently working as a researcher. In IIT, she has been working for five years on the development of diagnostic tests, based on nanotechnologies, for point-of-care applications and on-field testing. Her present research interests include the study of non-coding RNAs and the development of novel RNA therapeutics.

About the author

Francesca Mussino graduates in Biological Science at the University of Genoa discussing the thesis “Analysis of the regulatory mechanisms of gene expression of silicateins in 3-D cellular model of Petrosia ficiformis (Demosponge)” with full marks (2008). She achieves her PhD in “Biochemistry” at the University of Genoa, discussing the thesis “Biomolecular characterization of an isoform of carbonic anhydrase in Corallium rubrum and identification of agonists that affect its gene expression” (2012). As a post doc fellow at the University of Genoa in the Department of experimental medicine, biochemistry section, she continued her biochemical and molecular biology studies on extracellular matrix proteins of marine invertebrate and their biotechnological applications, pursuing the following research projects: i) identification of the main collagens gene and prolyl-4-hydroxylase gene sequences of the sponge Chondrosia reniformis (Demospongiae, Porifera) in order to produce collagen in recombinant form; ii) identification and analysis of biochemical and molecular mechanisms of biosilicification in sea sponges models.

At Advanced Biology Center (CBA) in Genoa, she focuses her studies on one side to the purification of substances with cytotoxic effects from extracts of sea sponge C. reniformis and on the other side to the analysis of the effect of cytotoxic and inflammatory quartz powders on murine macrophage lines.

Since 2016 she collaborates with Nanobiointeractions & Nanodiagnostics research group of Italian Institute of technology (IIT) she focuses her studies on the development of low-cost hybrid sensing strategies, based on nanoparticles, for point-of-care diagnostics.

She has tutored several master degree students and is the author/coauthor of 9 peer-reviewed publications and 1 patent.

About the author

Pier Paolo Pompa is a tenured Senior Scientist and Director of the Nanobiointeractions&Nanodiagnostics Laboratory of Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT). After his degree in Physics, in 2005 he took a PhD in Nanoscience at the National Nanotechnology Laboratory (NNL) in Lecce. PPP subsequently joined NNL as a junior researcher and, since 2008, as a staff scientist. In 2009 he moved to the Center for Biomolecular Nanotechnologies (CBN) of IIT, where he was first appointed Coordinator of the Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Research Platform and in 2011 Director of CBN. In 2015 he moved to the Central Research Labs of IIT in Genova, where he leads a group of ca. 20 researchers. He is also Contract Professor at the University of Genova (Department of Biotechnology), Member of the University Board for PhD School (Department of Chemistry), and Editorial Board Member of several international journals in the field of nanoscience.

His scientific activities are highly interdisciplinary, ranging from nanotechnology to biophysics, nanodiagnostics, nanomedicine, nanobiotechnology and nanochemistry, and are intensively focused on the understanding of the interaction between nanomaterials and living systems. PPP has authored over 120 peer-reviewed publications in International Journals (including Nature Nanotechnology, PNAS, ACS Nano, Angewandte Chemie, Advanced Materials, Chem. Soc. Rev., receiving >6000 citations), several book chapters, and many invited and oral contributions to International Conferences. He is also author of >25 International Patents. He leads various national and international projects in the field of nanoscience and nanobiotechnology (he has been granted more than 5.5 M€ of external funds). He is also reviewer of major scientific journals (Nature Materials, Nature Nanotechnology, etc.) and international funding agencies (Israel Science Foundation, American Chemical Society, Human Frontier Science Program). PPP is also very active in applied research and technology transfer. He is co-founder and partner of HiQ-Nano, a start-up company specialized in the green production of high quality nanoparticles, reference nanomaterials, and point-of-care diagnostics.

About the author

Athanassia Athanassiou is Principal Investigator at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Genoa, Italy) head of the Smart Materials Group. She graduated in 1996 in Physics at the University of Ioannina. In 1997 she obtained an MSc in Laser Photonics from the University of Manchester and in 2000 she became Ph.D. in Physics at Salford University in Manchester, UK. From 2000 she worked asPost-doc at the Foundation for Research and Technology in Crete, where she became Researcher from 2003 until the 2005. In parallel from 2003 to 2005 she was Academic Staff at the Technical University of Crete, School of Applied Technology. She then moved to Lecce, Italy, where from January 2006 to December 2010 she worked as Researcher at NNL-National Nanotechnology Lab, CNR-Istituto di Nanoscienze. In January 2011 she became the coordinator of the Smart Materials Platform at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, IIT @ UniLe, Lecce. In September 2012 she moved to Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genoa with the entire Smart Materials team. In September 2014, she became Tenured, and until now she leads the Smart Materials Group of about 50 people currently. She has published more than 250 articles in scientific journals, is a writer of many chapters in scientific books and has 20 patents.

About the author

Dr. Bayer received his doctoral degree from the University of Illinois, Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2006. Immediately after, he worked at the U.S. Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA) as a post-doctoral researcher for one and a half years. Following this, he joined Prof. Eric Loth’s research group at the University of Illinois, Department of Aerospace Engineering first as a post-doctoral fellow and the following year as research assistant professor. Since 2010 he is a technologist at the Italian Institute of Technology. He is also a part time visiting professor at the University of Virginia, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His research interests focus on polymer nanocomposites, surface science, super-wetting and super-repellent surfaces, sustainable materials processing, smart materials, and emulsion science and technology.


Papadopoulou, E.L., Valentini, P., Mussino, F., Pompa, P.P., Athanassiou, A., & Bayer, I.S.(2018). Antibacterial bioelastomers with sustained povidone-iodine release. Chemical Engineering Journal, 347, 19-26.

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