Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Redefining 'Clean' A Whole New Level Of Sterilization For Surgical Instruments And Medical Devices

Nano Patents and Innovations: Redefining 'Clean' A Whole New Level Of Sterilization For Surgical Instruments And Medical Devices:

Aiming to take "clean" to a whole new level, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Maryland at College Park have teamed up to study how low-temperature plasmas can deactivate potentially dangerous biomolecules left behind by conventional sterilization methods. Using low-temperature plasmas is a promising technique for sterilization and deactivation of surgical instruments and medical devices, but the researchers say its effectiveness isn't fully understood yet. The researchers will present their findings at the AVS Symposium, held Oct. 30 – Nov. 4, in Nashville, Tenn.

"Bacteria are known to create virulence factors – biomolecules expressed and secreted by pathogens – even if they have been killed," says David Graves, a professor working on the research at UC Berkeley's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. These molecules are not always inactivated by conventional sterilization methods, such as heating surgical equipment in an autoclave, and can cause severe medical problems.

The misfolded proteins called "prions" that are thought to cause mad cow disease are one well-known example of harmful biomolecules, Graves says. "These molecules may not be inactivated by conventional autoclaves or other methods of disinfection or sterilization," he says. "In some cases, expensive endoscopes used in the brain must be discarded after a single use because the only way to reliably decontaminate them would destroy them."

Another harmful biomolecule is called lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which are found in the membranes of E. coli bacteria. In humans, LPS can initiate an immune response that includes fever, hypotension, and respiratory dysfunction, and may even lead to multiple organ failure and death.

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