MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When a prestigious international foundation that specializes in recognizing landmark innovations for trauma and musculoskeletal procedures meets in Berlin this summer, a West Virginia University professor’s nanoscale research aimed at preventing infections in people suffering with open or compound fractures will be in the spotlight.

Bingyun Li, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the WVU Department of Orthopaedics, will receive the AO Foundation’s Berton Rahn Research Prize on July 23 in Berlin. The foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Switzerland and led by an international group of surgeons who specialize in the treatment of trauma and disorders of the musculoskeletal system. It offers affiliated surgeons and operating room personnel global networking opportunities and knowledge services.

Dr. Li is receiving the award in recognition of his successful research on innovative ways to treat open fracture-associated infections. His research group piloted the concept of stimulating appropriate immune responses using a unique cytokine, a protein released by cells, to prevent infection and then using nanotechnology to deliver infection-fighting medication to fracture sites.

An open fracture is a broken bone that penetrates the skin, often requiring an operation to clean the area of the fracture. The injury is specifically difficult because of the risk of infection and healing when a fracture is open to the skin.

“Infection is one of the most common and potentially problematic complications faced by literally millions of patients annually,” Li said. “Current antibiotic therapy strategies are facing challenges. The objective of our study was to explore local delivery of medication with nanocoatings to restore and enhance immunity for infection prevention.”

Li’s approach made use of multilayer nanocoatings for delivery of medication.

“The work was innovative because it explored, for the first time, local applications of a natural cytokine at the implant/tissue interface for infection prevention. The cytokine (i.e. interleukin 12) plays a central role in cell-mediated immune response and bridges innate and adaptive immunities, and local application of such a cytokine could have significant applications in the field of orthopaedics and other biomedical fields,” Li said.

Nanoscience is the science of the extremely tiny, not as small as atoms or molecules, but much smaller than anything that can be seen with the naked eye. At these “nanoscales,” materials possess very different properties giving them very unique abilities. Nanoscale science and engineering is the attempt to learn about and use those special properties in the creation of novel products for a range of different industries.

Li’s work uses coatings on the nanoscale to more effectively deliver medications and, in this case, prevent infections.

He will receive the award at a meeting that will be attended by world renowned surgeons, clinicians and researchers from all over the world. He has also been asked to make a presentation about his research.

WVU Vice President for Research and Economic Development Curt M. Peterson said the international recognition brings prestige to Li’s work and WVU.

“The University is delighted that Li’s research is being honored in this fashion,” Peterson said. “His work has the potential to help prevent a great deal of suffering by future patients – a worthy accomplishment that is being appropriately recognized by an international audience.”

Li became an assistant professor of orthopaedics at WVU in 2005.  He is director of the Biomaterials, Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Laboratory at the WVU School of Medicine and a participant in WVNano – West Virginia’s focal point for discovery and innovation in nanoscale science, engineering and education. 

He is a guest researcher at the federal National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facilities in Morgantown. In addition to being on the graduate faculty at the WVU School of Pharmacy, Li is an adjunct assistant professor of chemical engineering in the WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
gg/asj: 03-03-11