July 13, 2023

From Chicken Feathers to Antimicrobial Surfaces

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Microbial colonization of surfaces burdens today’s societies by causing significant cost to human lives and the economy. Its prevention remains a global challenge for humanity and we are constantly seeking ways to reduce the transmission of microorganisms. A solution RELIANCE project works on is smart response self-disinfectant antimicrobial surfaces achieved through the design and development of a new range of antimicrobial nanocoating with a contact-killing action. The nanocoating consists of copper-functionalized mesoporous silica nanoparticles modified with Antimicrobial Compounds based on either essential oils or amino peptides isolated from protein-containing waste streams.

Our Swiss partner Haute école d’ingénierie et d’architecture Fribourg (HEIA-FR) is responsible for identifying and isolating Antimicrobial Peptides (AMP) from chicken feathers. Millions of tons of feathers are generated annually as byproducts from the poultry industry causing serious environmental issues and impacting human health safety. Even though feathers are of interest due to their composition of 90% wt. of Keratin protein, they are still underexploited because of their high stability and resistance to common proteolysis protocols.

Therefore, within this project, the Institute of Chemical Technology at HEIA-FR aims to develop effective, profitable, and sustainable processes to use this resource and transform waste feathers into AMPs. Given the difficulty and the challenges behind this mission, three approaches are currently being investigated for the isolation of bioactive peptides with optimal bioactive properties. A screening of the best hydrolysis conditions of each approach is being evaluated and an initial bioactive peptide fraction has been isolated and successfully tested against E. Coli and S. Aureus. The antimicrobial assays are assessed by our partner UNITOV.

HEIA-FR will further develop and work out the scale-up of AMP production. Moreover, the Institute of Chemical Technology will cooperate with the Plastics Innovation Competence Center (PICC) on the anchoring of the produced AMPs to the surface of Cu-dopped mesoporous silica nanoparticles developed by TEKNIKER and further coating while utilizing the cold atmospheric plasma technology to produce smart antimicrobial coated surfaces for application in the automobile industry.

In the lab working on keratin hydrolysis. ©HEIA-FR
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