ACS Biomater Sci Eng. 2021 Mar 15. doi: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.1c00029. Online ahead of print.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are seen as a promising replacement to conventional antibiotics for the prevention of skin wound infections. However, due to the short half-life of AMPs in biological environments, such as blood, their use in clinical applications has been limited. The covalent immobilization of AMPs onto suitable substrates is an effective solution to create contact-killing surfaces with increased long-term stability. In this work, an antimicrobial peptide, RRPRPRPRPWWWW-NH2 (RRP9W4N), was covalently attached to amphiphilic and ordered mesoporous Pluronic F127 hydrogels made of cross-linked lyotropic liquid crystals through 1-ethyl-3-(3-(dimethylamino)propyl) carbodiimide (EDC) and N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) chemistry. The AMP-hydrogels showed high antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), and multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli for up to 24 h. Furthermore, the AMP-hydrogels did not present any toxicity to human fibroblasts. The AMPs retained their antimicrobial activity up to 48 h in human blood serum, which is a significant increase in stability compared to when used in dissolved state. A pilot in vivo rat model showed 10-100× less viable counts of S. aureus on AMP-hydrogels compared with control hydrogels during the first 3 days of infection. Studies performed on human whole blood showed that blood coagulated more readily in the presence of AMP-hydrogels as compared to hydrogels without AMPs, indicating potential hemostatic activity. Overall, the results suggest that the combination of amphiphilic hydrogels with covalently bonded AMPs has potential to be used as antibacterial wound dressing material to reduce infections and promote hemostatic activity as an alternative to antibiotics or other antimicrobial agents, whose use should be restricted.