How microbes read the map: Effects of implant topography on bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation

Sang Won Lee, K. Scott Phillips, Huan Gu, Mehdi Kazemzadeh-Narbat, Dacheng Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Microbes have remarkable capabilities to attach to the surface of implanted medical devices and form biofilms that adversely impact device function and increase the risk of multidrug-resistant infections. The physicochemical properties of biomaterials have long been known to play an important role in biofilm formation. More recently, a series of discoveries in the natural world have stimulated great interest in the use of 3D surface topography to engineer antifouling materials that resist bacterial colonization. There is also increasing evidence that some medical device surface topographies, such as those designed for tissue integration, may unintentionally promote microbial attachment. Despite a number of reviews on surface topography and biofilm control, there is a missing link between how bacteria sense and respond to 3D surface topographies and the rational design of antifouling materials. Motivated by this gap, we present a review of how bacteria interact with surface topographies, and what can be learned from current laboratory studies of microbial adhesion and biofilm formation on specific topographic features and medical devices. We also address specific biocompatibility considerations and discuss how to improve the assessment of the anti-biofilm performance of topographic surfaces. We conclude that 3D surface topography, whether intended or unintended, is an important consideration in the rational design of safe medical devices. Future research on next-generation smart antifouling materials could benefit from a greater focus on translation to real-world applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120595
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Biofilms
  • Infection
  • Medical devices
  • Safety
  • Surface topography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


Dive into the research topics of 'How microbes read the map: Effects of implant topography on bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this