Antimicrobial Brushes on Titanium via “Grafting to” Using Phosphonic Acid/Pyridinium Containing Block Copolymers
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Coating medical implants with antibacterial polymers may prevent postoperative infections which are a common issue for conventional titanium implants and can even lead to implant failure. Easily applicable diblock copolymers are presented that form polymer brushes via “grafting to” mechanism on titanium and equip the modified material with antibacterial properties. The polymers carry quaternized pyridinium units to combat bacteria and phosphonic acid groups which allow the linear chains to be anchored to metal surfaces in a convenient coating process. The polymers are synthesized via reversible-addition-fragmentation-chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization and postmodifications and are characterized using NMR spectroscopy and SEC. Low grafting densities are a major drawback of the “grafting to” approach compared to “grafting from”. Thus, the number of phosphonic acid groups in the anchor block are varied to investigate and optimize the surface binding. Modified titanium surfaces are examined regarding their composition, wetting behavior, streaming potential, and coating stability. Evaluation of the antimicrobial properties revealed reduced bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation for certain polymers, albeit the cell biocompatibility against human gingival fibroblasts is also impaired. The presented findings show the potential of easy-to-apply polymer coatings and aid in designing next-generation implant surface modifications.