Broad-spectrum antimicrobial/antifouling soft material coatings using poly(ethylenimine) as a tailorable scaffold
Microbial colonization and biofilm formation is the leading cause of contact lens-related keratitis. Treatment of the condition remains a challenge because of the need for prolonged therapeutic course and high doses of antimicrobial agents especially for biofilm eradication. The development of strategies to prepare nonfouling contact lens surfaces is a more practical way to ensure users' safety and relieve the excessive public healthcare burden. In this study, we report a series of polymers that were modified to introduce functionality designed to facilitate coating adhesion, antimicrobial and antifouling properties. Cyclic carbonate monomers having different functional groups including adhesive catechol, antifouling poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), and hydrophobic urea/ethyl were conjugated onto branched poly(ethylenimine) (bPEI, 25 kDa) at various degrees in a facile and well-controlled manner using a simple one step, atom economical approach. Immersion of contact lenses into an aqueous solution of the catechol-functionalized polymers at room temperature resulted in robust and stable coating on the lens surfaces, which survived the harsh condition of autoclaving and remained on the surface for a typical device application lifetime (7 days). The deposition of the polymer was unambiguously confirmed by static contact angle measurement and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Polymer coating did not change light transmission significantly. Combinatorial optimization demonstrated that lenses coated with bPEI functionalized with catechol, PEG (5 kDa) and urea groups at 1:12:3:23 molar ratio for 18 h provided the highest antifouling effect against four types of keratitis-causing pathogens: Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, and Fusarium solani, after 7 days of incubation. The polymer coating also inhibited protein adsorption onto the contact lens surfaces after exposure to bovine serum albumin solution for up to 24 h, owing to the flexible and large PEG constituent. Notably, all the polymer coatings used in this study were biocompatible, achieving â‰¥ 90% cell viability following direct contact with human corneal epithelial cells for 24 h. Hence, these polymer coatings are envisaged to be promising for the prevention of contact lens-related keratitis.