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Inspired by Nature

Since the discovery of bacteria, conventional thinking has led people to kill microorganisms to control them. Yet, overuse and abuse of antibiotics, disinfectants and other kill strategies have contributed to the creation of superbugs such as MRSA and others commonly found in hospitals and the general community. As biocidal approaches have made bacteria stronger, new strategies are needed to manage bacterial growth while contributing to an overall healthy environment to protect people. Such a solution may be found in Sharklet™.

Sharklet is a simple solution for a complex problem. The patented, microscopic pattern manufactured by Sharklet Technologies creates a surface upon which bacteria do not like to grow. The Sharklet pattern is manufactured onto adhesive-backed skins that may be applied to high-touch areas to reduce the transfer of bacteria among people. Sharklet Technologies is also developing Sharklet-patterned medical devices including a Sharklet Urinary Catheter to help reduce hospital-acquired infections.

A Shark Tale

While the Sharklet pattern holds great promise to improve the way humans co-exist with microorganisms, the pattern was developed far outside of a laboratory. In fact, Sharklet was discovered via a seemingly unrelated problem: how to keep algae from coating the hulls of submarines and ships. In 2002, Dr. Anthony Brennan, a materials science and engineering professor at the University of Florida, was visiting the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Oahu as part of Navy-sponsored research. The U.S. Office of Naval Research solicited Dr. Brennan to find new antifouling strategies to reduce use of toxic antifouling paints and trim costs associated with dry dock and drag.

Dr. Brennan was convinced that using an engineered topography could be a key to new antifouling technologies. Clarity struck as he and several colleagues watched an algae-coated nuclear submarine return to port. Dr. Brennan remarked that the submarine looked like a whale lumbering into the harbor. In turn, he asked which slow moving marine animals don’t foul. The only one? The shark.

Dr. Brennan was inspired to take an actual impression of shark skin, or more specifically, its dermal denticles. Examining the impression with scanning electron microscopy, Dr. Brennan confirmed his theory. Shark skin denticles are arranged in a distinct diamond pattern with tiny riblets. Dr. Brennan measured the ribs’ width-to-height ratios which corresponded to his mathematical model for roughness – one that would discourage microorganisms from settling. The first test of Sharklet yielded impressive results. Sharklet reduced green algae settlement by 85 percent compared to smooth surfaces.

Beyond the Water

While the U.S. Office of Naval Research continued to fund Dr. Brennan’s work for antifouling strategies, new applications for the pattern emerged. Brennan evaluated Sharklet’s ability to inhibit the growth of other microorganisms. Sharklet proved to be a mighty defense against bacteria.

Similar to algae, bacteria take root singly or in small groups with the intent to establish large colonies, or biofilms.

Similar to other organisms, bacteria seek the path of least energy resistance. Research results suggest that Sharklet keeps biofilms from forming because the pattern requires too much energy for bacteria to colonize. The consequence is that organisms find another place to grow or simply die from inability to signal to other bacteria.

Dr. Brennan’s and Sharklet Technologies’ research has demonstrated Sharklet’s success in inhibiting the growth of Staph a., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, VRE, E. coli, MRSA and other bacterial species that cause illness and even death.

Sharklet Technologies is proud to produce products with the Sharklet pattern to help make the world a healthier, environmentally safer and better place. We’re equally honored to offer a biomimetic technology inspired by the shark which will allow humans and microorganisms to coexist in a sustainable and healthy way.

Research & Results

Sharklet™ is the world’s first technology to inhibit bacterial growth through physical surface modification alone. The surface topography is made of millions of microscopic diamonds that disrupt the ability for bacteria to aggregate, colonize, and develop into biofilms. In bringing Sharklet to market, the pattern has been tested against many gram negative and gram positive strains of bacteria, including clinical isolates, in different media and flow conditions. Bacteria tests include Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis,MRSA, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and VRE. Sharklet tests have been conducted in Sharklet laboratories, independent facilities and United States government agency facilities.

Read the journal reports and review the data demonstrating Sharklet’s effectiveness versus a smooth surface.

Micropatterned Surfaces for Reducing the Risk of Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection: An In Vitro Study on the Effect of Sharklet Micropatterned Surfaces to Inhibit Bacterial Colonization and Migration of Uropathogenic Escherichia coli

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Journal/year: Journal of Endourology 2011

Three Sharklet micro-patterns were evaluated for efficacy of inhibiting colonization and migration of a common uropathogen, Escherichia coli. All three variations of the Sharklet micro-pattern outperformed the control surfaces in inhibiting E. coli colonization in tryptic soy broth and artificial urine. The incidence of E. coli migration over the rod segments was reduced by more than 80% for the Sharklet-patterned rods compared with the un-patterned control rods.

A model that predicts the attachment behavior of Ulva linza zoospores on surface topography

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Biofouling 2010

A predictive model for the attachment of spores of the green alga Ulva on patterned topographical surfaces was developed using a constant refinement approach. The model incorporates a modified version of the Engineered Roughness Index and was used to evaluate two components of the model on spore settlement: the area fraction of feature tops and the number of distinct features in the design.

Engineered antifouling microtopographies: the role of Reynolds number in a model that predicts attachment of zoospores of Ulva and cells of Cobetia marina

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Biofouling 2010

A model was used to predict and confirm the correlation between attachment density of algal zoospores (Ulva linza) and marine bacteria (Cobetia marina) with surface roughness for the first time. The model incorporates the size and motility of the microorganisms by multiplying the engineered roughness index by the Reynolds number of the cells.

Antifouling Performance of Cross-linked Hydrogels: Refinement of an Attachment Model

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Biomacromolecules 2011

Three new hydrogel compositions were polymerized and demonstrated significant reductions for initial attachment of zoospores of the green alga Ulva linza (up to 97%), cells of the diatom Navicula incerta (up to 58%) and the bacterium Cobetia marina (up to 62%), compared to a smooth PDMSe standard. A shear stress (45 Pa), generated in a water channel, eliminated up to 95% of the initially attached cells of Navicula from the smooth hydrogel surfaces relative to smooth PDMSe surfaces. Compared to the PDMSe standard, 79% of the cells of C. marina were removed from all smooth hydrogel compositions when exposed to a 50 Pa wall shear stress. Attachment of spores of the green alga Ulva to microtopographies replicated in PEGDMA-co-HEMA was also evaluated. The Sharklet micro-patterned PEGDMA-co-HEMA surfaces reduced attachment of spores of Ulva by 97% compared to a smooth PDMSe standard. The attachment densities of spores to engineered microtopographies in PDMSe and PEGDMA-co-HEMA were shown to correlate with a modified attachment model through the inclusion of a surface energy term. Attachment densities of spores of Ulva to engineered topographies replicated in a material other than PDMSe are now correlated with the attachment model.

Engineered antifouling microtopographies: mapping preferential and inhibitory microenvironments for zoospore attachment

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Biofouling 2010

An algorithm was developed and implemented to map the locations of attached spores of Ulva linza on patterned surfaces (including the Sharklet pattern). Using this mapping algorithm, settlement maps of spores on patterned topographies from several assays showed clear preferences in spore settlement. Over 94% of the spores attached within the depressed regions on the surfaces, including a surface containing pits instead of protruding features. The spores attached primarily at the intersections of several features, with over half and up to 96% of spores settling in these regions. The highest spore densities occurred at intersections where the features were most dissimilar. In contrast, the location of attached beads on the surfaces was nearly uniform across the surface. Identification of preferential attachment locations allows for the study of localized properties that influence cell behavior and aids in the development of new surfaces to control cell-surface interactions.

Keeping Environmental Surfaces Cleaner Between Cleanings: A Non-Kill Surface Technology for Decreasing Bacterial Attachment, Survival Time, and Transmission on Environmental Surfaces in the Healthcare Setting (SHEA 2011)

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SHEA 2011 Annual Scientific Meeting

This study highlights the unique “quarantine-like” effect that the Sharklet micro-pattern has on microorganisms that come in contact with the surface; the pattern is associated with a decrease in bacterial survival and is less likely to transfer bacteria to fingertips by touch.

The Sharklet micro-patterned surface was tested against two strains of Staphylococcus aureus (one of them methicillin-resistant) and demonstrated reduced attachment of bacteria, reduced survival time of attached bacteria, and reduced surface-to-finger transference of attached bacteria.

Micro-patterned surfaces for reducing bacterial migration associated with catheter-associated urinary tract infection

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38th Annual APIC 2011 Educational Conference & International Meeting

*Won the Blue Ribbon Abstract Award* The Sharklet micro-pattern demonstrated the ability to inhibit migration of Serratia marcescens through the use of physical surface modification alone. The results of this study suggest that modification of existing silicone Foley catheters with the Sharklet micro-pattern may prevent bacterial migration, with implications for reduced rate of bacteriuria and incidence of CAUTI.

Efficacy of microscopic surface patterning for reducing hospital environmental contamination

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ThGOT Zeulenroda 2011 Annual Conference

In this six-month hospital study, acrylic film with Sharklet(tm) micro-pattern was adhesively mounted onto 3A Composites DIBOND(r) wall panels (21cm x 125cm) and mounted in six locations in the hospital. In each location, four surfaces were evaluated: un-cleaned Sharklet test panel, un-cleaned DIBOND(r) control panel (with no Sharklet), Sharklet test panel cleaned once a week with detergent, and the un-cleaned wall as a second control. The Sharklet-patterned wall surfaces exhibited over 90% less microbial contamination than the un-modified wall. Additional experiments involving artificial contamination of surfaces also showed the same trends.

Evaluating the Feasibility of Reducing Surface Contamination in Healthcare Facilities with Micro-Pattern Films

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51st ICAAC 2011 Conference

In a healthcare setting, micro-patterned films applied to high-touch environmental surfaces would likely experience physical wear and oily residue from hand contact. This study demonstrates that the previously studied ISK2x2 Sharklet micro-pattern offers significant bacterial inhibition even after being pre-conditioned by physical wear (fingernail scratches) and hand lotion (fingerprints). In addition, the recently engineered SK10x2 Sharklet micro-pattern offers improved optical clarity and is just as effective in reducing microbial colonization as the ISK2x2 pattern. The results suggest that the SK10x2 pattern could be effective for reducing surface contamination on hand-held devices, monitors, and other screens that could harbor bacteria in a healthcare setting.

Engineered antifouling microtopographies – correlating wettability with cell attachment,

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Biofouling 2006

First study presenting the theory and experimental data for the interrelationship between topography, wettability, and bioadhesion. Examined the impact of engineered topographies on two biological systems, Ulva algal zoospores and porcine cardiovascular endothelial cells. The Sharklet topography outperformed all other topographies for inhibiting algal zoospore settlement.

Engineered antifouling microtopographies – effect of feature size, geometry, and roughness on settlement of zoospores of the green alga Ulva,

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Biofouling 2007

A study that investigated the effect of feature geometry and size for inhibition of microorganism settlement (Ulva algal zoospore), which showed the Sharklet micro-pattern outperformed other micro-patterns compared to the smooth surface. This is explained by an engineered roughness index (ERI), a model that predicts biological response to micro-patterns.

Species specific engineered antifouling topographies: correlations between the settlement of algal zoospores and barnacle cyprids,

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Biofouling 2007

A study that investigated the effect of aspect ratio (feature height) of topographical features on microorganism settlement. The Sharklet topography was again demonstrated to outperform all control surfaces for inhibiting settlement of the Ulva algal zoospore, and a barnacle-specific Sharklet topography was introduced as the best-performing topography for inhibiting barnacle cyprid settlement.

Impact of engineered surface microtopography on biofilm formation of Staphylococcus aureus,

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Biointerphases 2007

First study evaluating the effect of the Sharklet topography on bacterial colonization relevant to medical devices. During the course of 21 days in growth media, the Sharklet topography significantly inhibited the development of S. aureus biofilm compared to the unpatterned control surfaces.

Engineered nanoforce gradients for inhibition of settlement (attachment) of swimming algal spores,

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Langmuir 2008

A study on the effect of mechanical force gradients, which is a calculation of the difference between bending moments of two adjacent features; this concept is important in capturing the surface energy effects that may favor or inhibit the settlement of marine organisms. When two adjacent features have different bending moments, cells are subjected to different stress values on either side, creating a possibly difficult environment for settlement. In order to test the concept, a finite element mesh model was used to design micro-patterns with paired features of differing geometries (and different bending moment values); the Sharklet design consists of four different features, thus with three different bending moments. The Sharklet pattern had the lowest microorganism settlement of all surfaces tested.

Systematic variation of microtopography, surface chemistry and elastic modulus and the state dependent effect on endothelial cell alignment,

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Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A 2008

Systematic evaluation of how variations in elastic modulus, surface chemistry, and height/spacing of micro-ridges interact and effect endothelial cell attachment density, viability and alignment.

Potential for Tunable Static and Dynamic Contact Angle Anisotropy on Gradient Microscale Patterned Topographies,

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Langmuir 2009

Investigation of static and dynamic contact angle anisotropies on various engineered microtopographies (including Sharklet) to evaluate the effect of discontinuities along the feature length on the anisotropies previously reported for channels/ridges. Introduces the potential for designing micropatterned surfaces for directing fluid motion (e.g., self-cleaning, microfluidics).

About Bacteria

The world of microorganisms is a dynamic one and all forms of life depend on microbial metabolic activity. In fact, there are more microbes living on and in every human being than there are cells in our bodies. At the most basic level, there are microorganisms that are harmless or offer beneficial functions to living things such as aiding in digestion. Other microorganisms keep detrimental microbes at bay. However, there are some destructive microorganisms, such as the kind that attack living cells or create toxins that can cause illness and death. Since these two types of microorganism often live side-by-side, it has been a significant challenge, specifically within the healthcare community, to control the growth of the destructive organisms while promoting the growth of the beneficial.

As healthcare providers have fought to protect patients from harmful microbes, they have, over time, unwittingly given rise to superbugs. Consider that MRSA infections in emergency rooms have increased 211 percent between 2000 and 2008. The January 2010 issue of Microbiology states that the improper and overuse of disinfectants in hospitals has contributed to the bacterial resistance epidemic. In our quest to control bacteria with toxic chemicals, antibiotics and cleaners – we haven’t defeated bacteria but only made them stronger.

New strategies are needed to inhibit bacteria without further contribution to the problem of antimicrobial resistance. Sharklet™ presents such a solution. Sharklet is the world’s first technology to reduce bacterial growth through pattern alone. Sharklet doesn’t kill bacteria to control it. The patented microscopic features of Sharklet simply create an unstable surface on which bacteria don’t like to grow.