Bioinspired polymeric surface patterns for medical applications

Purpose: A powerful principle in nature is the presence of surface patterns to improve specific characteristics or to enable completely new functions. Here, we present two case studies where bioinspired surface patterns based on the adhesive system of geckos may be applied for biomedical applications: residue-free adhesion to skin and gecko-inspired suture threads for knot-free wound closure. Methods: Gecko-inspired skin adhesives were fabricated by soft lithography of polydimethylsiloxane with successive inking and dipping steps. Their adhesion was measured using a home built adhesion tester designed for patterned surfaces. Preliminary lap shear tests on the back of a human hand were also performed. Commercial suture threads from different materials were patterned in the group of A. del Campo at the Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Research (Mainz, Germany) using oxygen plasma. The treated threads were pulled through artificial skin in both directions measuring the peak force and the pull through force. Results and Conclusions: Unpatterned reference samples of the skin adhesive did not stick to human skin, while the patterned samples all showed notable adhesion up to 1.2 Newton for a sample size of approximately 3 cm². First results with the patterned suture threads indicated that the surface patterning of the thread has only a minor effect on the pull-through forces. To achieve knot-free sewing the surface geometry of the suture threads needs to be optimized and more realistic testing procedures, e.g. testing on human skin, are necessary.