Preventing Infection of Fracture Fixation Hardware via Localized Expression of Antimicrobial Peptide

Mentors: Puleo, Pack

Infection remains a primary complication following surgical treatment of injuries to the face, with mandibular and maxillary fractures being two of the most common.  The use of prophylactic antibiotics remains controversial, with reports of increased complications and development of resistant microorganisms.  Cationic antimicrobial peptides, such as human β-defensin 3 (hBD3), are naturally occurring molecules possessing broad antimicrobial activity.  The overall goal of this project is to develop coatings that induce localized expression of hBD3 for preventing colonization of fracture fixation hardware and the consequent establishment of infection.  First, polyplexes will be developed to enable efficient transfection and subsequent secretion of the peptide.  Second, these vectors will be encapsulated into biodegradable formulations for coating on metallic plates or as an osteoconductive bone filler.

In this collaborative project between Drs. Puleo and Pack, the undergraduate student researcher will conduct experiments that fit two themes. In Theme 1, biodegradable materials will be formulated with plasmid encoding an antimicrobial peptide to kill bacteria.  For Theme 2, the delivery system, the drug delivery profiles, and in vitro bioactivity of released molecules will be characterized.