Principal investigators: Ola Rashwan and Nikolaos Tsotakos

University: Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg

Industry partner: Polymics, Ltd.

Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg will help Polymics to solve a critical problem related to the spinal cages’ frequent infections that threaten the patients’ lives and burden the healthcare system. Two approaches will be simultaneously utilized to combat the growth of microbial biofilm in the spinal cages manufactured by injection molding at the Polymics facility in PA. First, a new antimicrobial blend of PEEK/ZnO/ AgNPs will be used instead of plain PEEK. Second, microtexturing /or nanotexturing of the inserts of the injection mold will be done so that microfeatures and bioinspired coned nanopillars will be created on the spinal cages’ surfaces. The micro/nanotextured spinal cages should release a higher quantity of antimicrobial agents than the untextured ones due to the substantial increase in the surface area. Research showed that the nanopillars physically rupture the bacteria’s cell membranes. This approach is anticipated to make the micro/nanotextured spinal cages inherently antimicrobial.