Biofunctionalization of selective laser melted porous titanium using silver and zinc nanoparticles to prevent infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria

I. A.J. van Hengel*, N. E. Putra, M. W.A.M. Tierolf, M. Minneboo, A. C. Fluit, L. E. Fratila-Apachitei, I. Apachitei, A. A. Zadpoor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)
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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are frequently involved in implant-associated infections (IAIs), making the treatment of these infections even more challenging. Therefore, multifunctional implant surfaces that simultaneously possess antibacterial activity and induce osseointegration are highly desired in order to prevent IAIs. The incorporation of multiple inorganic antibacterial agents onto the implant surface may aid in generating synergistic antibacterial behavior against a wide microbial spectrum while reducing the occurrence of bacterial resistance. In this study, porous titanium implants synthesized by selective laser melting (SLM) were biofunctionalized with plasma electrolytic oxidation (PEO) using electrolytes based on Ca/P species as well as silver and zinc nanoparticles in ratios from 0 to 100% that were tightly embedded into the growing titanium oxide layer. After the surface bio-functionalization process, silver and zinc ions were released from the implant surfaces for at least 28 days resulting in antibacterial leaching activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Furthermore, the biofunctionalized implants generated reactive oxygen species, thereby contributing to antibacterial contact-killing. While implant surfaces containing up to 75% silver and 25% zinc nanoparticles fully eradicated both adherent and planktonic bacteria in vitro as well as in an ex vivo experiment performed using murine femora, solely zinc-bearing surfaces did not. The minimum inhibitory and bactericidal concentrations determined for different combinations of both types of ions confirmed the presence of a strong synergistic antibacterial behavior, which could be exploited to reduce the amount of required silver ions by two orders of magnitude (i.e., 120 folds). At the same time, the zinc bearing surfaces enhanced the metabolic activity of pre-osteoblasts after 3, 7, and 11 days. Altogether, implant biofunctionalization by PEO with silver and zinc nanoparticles is a fruitful strategy for the synthesis of multifunctional surfaces on orthopedic implants and the prevention of IAIs caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Statement of Significance: Implant-associated infections are becoming increasingly challenging to treat due to growing antibiotic resistance against antibiotics. Here, we propose an alternative approach where silver and zinc nanoparticles are simultaneously used for the biofunctionalization of rationally designed additively manufactured porous titanium. This combination of porous design and tailored surface treatment allows us to reduce the amount of required silver nanoparticles by two orders of magnitude, fully eradicate antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and enhance the osteogenic behavior of pre-osteoblasts. We demonstrate that the resulting implants display antibacterial activity in vitro and ex vivo against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-337
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Additive manufacturing
  • Implant-associated infections
  • MRSA
  • Multifunctional biomaterials
  • Plasma electrolytic oxidation
  • Silver and zinc nanoparticles


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