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 to deliver a drug that would bolster the immune system and stop infections before they start. This technology might be just around the corner according to Bingyun Li, PhD., at the West Virginia University Department of Orthopedics and Director of the WVU Biomaterials, Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Laboratory.
Research in these areas is important because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Li said “the treatment of battlefield casualties is expensive and the infection rate runs from 2 to 15 percent because in some cases the organisms develop resistance, and therefore the antibiotics don’t work.” Millions of people not in the battlefield could also be helped by the technology because infections can sometimes result when biomedical devices are implanted.
Li’s research team is working on several ways to deliver interleukin-12. One way would be to inject microcapsules or to potentially spray a fine mist on stents, pacemakers, pain pumps, artificial limbs, and to virtually any biomedical device before implantation.
According to Li “Interleukin-12 will maximize the body’s natural response to an extent where infections can be prevented without the risk of the bacteria developing resistance to the treatment. With nanocoating, the drug is right where it needs to be at the interface of the implant and the tissue. With the microcapsule, the drug can be injected or sprayed where desired and the nanocoating and microcapsule can prolong the half life of interleukin-12.”
Li’s team has been working for four years to develop the technology. The research has been funded in part by the WVU Research Corporation, the National Science Foundation, and the Osteosynthesis and Trauma Care Foundation.
The university’s Robert C. Byrd, Health Science Center, Department of Orthopedics has several ongoing research programs. The Telemedicine Research program is working with patients with orthopedic problems. Patients are able to go to a nearby medical center where local healthcare providers interact online with surgeons to decide on continuing care for patients with traumatic injuries such as total hip and knee replacements.
The Department also has developed an electronic outcomes data collections system. The system uses HIPAA compliant internet based software to collect and store patient information in a database. Patients are able to complete the condition specific validated surveys from any computer or any location before each outpatient clinic visit with the updated information available to physicians before the visit.
The database is also a valuable resource for researchers who want to answer specific clinical research questions. The database contains de-identified data on surgical spine, surgical shoulder, and total knee and hip replacement patients. The data can also be aggregated and analyzed with data from other institutions that are using the same electronic data collections system.