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Antibacterial Smart Sutures Visible in CT Scans

Conn Hastings |

Researchers at RMIT University in Australia have developed ‘smart stitches’ that can fight bacteria and reveal the location of the sutured area in CT scans. The sutures have been developed to reduce the chances of surgical site infections and also make life a little easier for clinicians, as the material shows up in CT scans, allowing for identification of the location of the sutures in the body and quick assessment if they are performing as required. In particular, the researchers envisage the sutures as a replacement for vaginal meshes that are used to treat prolapses, for which surgical site infection rates tend to be high. The sutures combine iodine and carbon dots in their structure to achieve these unique properties.

Surgical site infections are a risk for all surgeries and with the rise of antibacterial drug resistance, avoiding them in the first place is most definitely preferable to treating them once they are established. Some procedures come with a higher risk of surgical site infections, such as vaginal mesh placement, so developing techniques to help these at-risk patients would be highly beneficial.

The filament visible in chicken samples, as seen under CT scan.

These issues have inspired the Australian team to develop smart sutures that are not only anti-bacterial but are also radiopaque. “Our smart surgical sutures can play an important role in preventing infection and monitoring patient recovery and the proof-of-concept material we’ve developed has several important properties that make it an exciting candidate for this,” said Shadi Houshyar, a researcher involved in the study.

The sutures demonstrate these properties because of the presence of carbon dots, which are inherently fluorescent and which can be tailored to demonstrate luminosity that helps them to stand out during scans. The researchers also attached iodine to the carbon dots within the sutures, which provides both effective anti-bacterial properties and radiopacity.  

So far, the researchers have tested the sutures in chicken meat, and found that they were still clearly visible within the meat when scanned three weeks post implantation. The sutures also killed approximately 99% of a sample of drug-resistant bacteria within six hours at room temperature.

“They can be tailored to create biodegradable stitches or a permanent suture, or even to be adhesive on one side only, where required,” said Houshyar. “This project opens up a lot of practical solutions for surgeons, which has been our aim from the start and the reason we have involved clinicians in the study.”

Study in OpenNano: Smart suture with iodine contrasting nanoparticles for computed tomography


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