Biofouling is an undesirable process in which a surface becomes encrusted with organisms and their by-products. This unwanted colonization has a serious impact on marine devices, as it lead to deterioration of the surfaces and can alter fluid flow rates leading to significant increase in cost of marine transportation. In the healthcare system, the attachment of bacteria and biofilm formation on medical devices may lead to severe infections and consequently death. In the US alone, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that healthcare-associated infections account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 100,000 deaths annually.
Many approaches to prevent biofouling have been suggested, however, they suffer from drawbacks such as release of toxic materials to the surroundings, low stability that limits their long-term application or complex and expensive synthesis.
My research group designed a small molecule that can spontaneously form a coating that resists biofilm formation. The molecule contains three elements that enable i) its self-assembly, ii) its adsorption onto any substrate and iii) its antifouling activity. Our results clearly demonstrate the formation of a coating on various surfaces (glass, titanium, silicon oxide, metals and polymers). In addition, we showed that this coating prevents the first step of antifouling, which involves the adsorption of bioorganic molecules to the substrate. Moreover, the coating significantly reduces the attachment of various organisms such as bacteria and fungi to surfaces. Importantly, this peptide design can serve as a platform for the design of functional peptide-based coatings.