How Shark Skin Inspired an Antibacterial Surface Technology

Amanda Pedersen 1

July 28, 2017

4 Min Read
How Shark Skin Inspired an Antibacterial Surface Technology

Sharklet Technologies has been acquired by a Chinese medical device firm, as it prepares to bring its surface technology into clinical trials.

Kristopher Sturgis

When it comes to truly unique surface technologies, you needn't look any further than the innovative design introduced by Sharklet Technologies Inc., known simply as the Sharklet. Created by Anthony Brennan, chief technology officer and chairman, the technology features a pattern inspired by shark skin and was designed to fend off harmful microorganisms and biofilms. 

The material is comprised of a highly-ordered series of bars arranged in an interlocking diamond fashion that creates a surface that prohibits microorganisms from attaching to and growing on the surface. Now that the material has undergone several studies, Brennan believes that the material's unique properties will enable it to find a variety of different applications where it can help reduce the accumulation of bacteria.

"Sharklet surface technology basically creates a surface that inhibits bacterial adhesion and growth by limiting the organism from touching the surface through minimizing the available water required," Brennan said. "Our experimental studies demonstrate clearly that bacteria adhesion and biofilm formation is inhibited by the Sharklet microtopography or micropatterns. The potential exists to use the micropattern to reduce the accumulation and transference of the bacteria between surfaces. We are currently evaluating several products that we anticipate will benefit from the use of Sharklet micropatterns."

The company announced at the beginning of the summer that Peaceful Union, a Chinese equity medical device firm, would acquire Sharklet Technologies to accelerate the development of the Sharklet for medical devices where chemical-free inhibition was desired. The recent acquisition also aims to help the company move forward with pilot studies for the material, as well as major clinical trials while exploring other products down the line.

"We have several products that are both in the works, and worth keeping an eye on," Brennan said. "Recently, the Sharklet micropattern was evaluated in a limited clinical pilot study and the results were promising. Pending advisement of the FDA on subsequent trials, a larger clinical trial is planned. In addition, there was an announcement of our application of the microtopography to high-touch surfaces that we anticipate will be available in the near future. Sharklet Technologies is worth keeping an eye on for the many advances that we make each year and the new products to be introduced in the near future."

Brennan created Sharklet technologies back in 2007 when he began a research program at the University of Florida funded by the Office of Naval Research. The program began as a means to investigate the influence of micro patterns on biofouling of marine surfaces, like Naval ships. The research eventually led Brennan to investigate which marine animals did not foul, a search that eventually led him to sharks and their unique structure of denticles.

"The structure represented a roughness that met the needs of my model structure, and so through trial and error, I arrived at the Sharklet pattern," he said. "It was highly effective at inhibiting green algae zoospores, and later, I determined it also inhibited barnacles and tubeworms. Interestingly, the tubeworms I studied required bacterial biofilms for adhesion to surfaces. By trial and error, we discovered that the biofilms were not forming on the sharklet patterns, which led to the discovery that E.coli did not adhere to our Sharklet patterns -- and so we began Sharklet Technologies Inc."

The company has come a long way since, having found numerous applications suitable for the integration of the Sharklet material to help create cleaner surfaces. With the recent partnership with Peaceful Union, Brennan said the material should soon find its way into clinical use.

"I do believe that Sharklet is a technology that will find a place in the clinic," he said. "It is a paradigm shift that requires appropriate levels of testing, validation, and certification for approvals prior to use in the clinic. We are working diligently to meet the rigorous standards of our health systems around the world, and the requirements of regulatory agencies that provide oversight for the safety of all patients. Sharklet Technologies is committed to providing products like Sharklet that help people and the environment by using bioinspired technologies."

Kristopher Sturgis is a contributor to Qmed.

[Image credit: Sharklet Technologies Inc. and Pixabay]

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