Here's an ingenious use for wonder-material graphene: a coating that eliminates blood clotting in medical devices by kickstarting the body's natural anti-clot mechanism, one that lasts much longer than traditional drugs used to fight the problem.
In a paper published in this week's Nature Communications, researchers explained how molecules of hemin and an enzyme called glucose oxidase can be mounted on a one-atom-thick graphene lattice. When it contacts the blood stream, the active molecules in this coating react with sugars in the blood to kick off production of nitroxyl, a substance with natural anti-clotting properties.
So what's the benefit of this novel coating? In testing, a plastic film coated with this material effectively eliminated clotting for three days; by comparison, standard anti-clotting drugs require multiple doses throughout the day to maintain therapeutically effective levels. Controlling clot formation on synthetic surfaces, like artificial heart valves or the tubing used for dialysis, is a major concern. Effectively blocking clotting with a super-thin coating that doesn't need to be replenished could mean less complications and a reduced need for blood thinning drugs.
Of course, as with all graphene concepts, there's a long road separating the laboratory from general use. You won't be seeing graphene-coated medical equipment any time in the near future. But if this technique pans out, perhaps every hospital device will pack the power of graphene. [Nature Communications via TheScientist]
Image: Teng Xue and Nathan Weiss