Fighting bacterial infections for bone regeneration

Title of the research project

ZODIAC - Zwitterionic mesostructured glasses: powerful devices for bone regeneration  

Scientific area 

Materials Science, Biomaterials, Chemistry

Project coordinator

Sonia Fiorilli


The effective treatment of bone fractures, especially when the natural remodelling process is compromised (e.g. in case of osteoporosis), still represents a challenging clinical issue. ZODIAC project developed advanced multifunctional biomaterials able to combine several therapeutic effects to achieve radically improved therapies in the field of bone regeneration.

Description of the research project 

In a normal biological environment bone fractures heal in the first 6-8 weeks, however in case of compromised clinical conditions, fractures may take a longer time to heal (delayed union) or they do not heal (non-union). In addition, for these critical clinical situations, the risk of bacterial infections is still an important obstacle for a successful therapy. Currently, patients treated for non-union fractures or delayed healing are submitted to frequent hospital admissions and a number of interventions, with a huge impact on the patients themselves and extra burden and health risks related to the revision surgery in case of non-unions.

ZODIAC contributes to achieve advanced therapies by developing novel multifunctional biomaterials able to target simultaneously all the causes, often mutually interlocked, of the pathologies related to compromised tissue healing.

The research team developed materials able to combine in a synergic way the therapeutic effects of specific ions and drugs incorporated in their nanoporous structure with the anti-adhesive properties of zwitterionic surfaces (equal number of positive and negative charges), able to act as an energetic and physical barrier to the adsorption of bacteria and their colonization.

The long-term objective of ZODIAC project is the design and development of advanced biomedical devices based on these multifunctional materials, dispersed in an injectable vehicle phase or as coating for implants.

ZODIAC project involves an academic partner with excellent reputation in the field of biomaterials, Prof. María Vallet-Regí from Università Computense di Madrid, and a high-tech company with a wide expertise in design and development of biomedical devices, Nobil Bio Ricerche s.r.l.

Impact on society

Only in EU in 2010, bone fractures in people over 50s resulted 3,5 million and it is expected that the number will increase to 4,5 million to 2025. In addition, the population ageing and related pathologies, as diabetes, will contribute to increase the number of the compromised clinical situations.

In this context, ZODIAC results will contribute to the development of multimodal biomedical devices for the treatment of bone pathologies, which cause pain and disability to millions of people worldwide and huge burden to the health system care.

Research results

ZODIAC developed nanoporous bioactive glasses able to release controlled concentrations of therapeutic elements, such as strontium  and copper, and provided with anti-adhesive surfaces.  The combination of these nano-biomaterials with a vehicle polymeric phase, like collagen, has been investigated to develop devices able to promote bone tissue regeneration in compromised clinical conditions.

Among the results obtained we highlight:

  • 7 scientific publications and 7 presentations to international conferences
  • New collaborations with the universities of Sheffild and Newcastle (United Kingdom) and l’Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine di Maastricht ( Netherlands)
  • 2 new collaborations with industries
  • Participation to two new research projects supported by the European Union under Horizon2020: GIOTTO-Active aGeIng and Osteoporosis: The next challenge for smarT nanobiOmaterials and 3D technologies and POLYSTORAGE - Polymers For Electrochemical Energy Storage

Short CV of project coordinator 

Sonia Fiorilli is Associate professor in Chemistry at the Department of Applied Science and Technology of Politecnico di Torino. Her main research interest is in the field of synthesis and functionalization of nanostructured materials for biomedical applications.

Master Degree in Industrial Chemistry in 2000, PhD in Materials Science and Technology at Politecnico di Torino in 2005. She has won fellowships for research stays at St. Andrews University (UK) and at l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie, Montpellier (France).

She has authored 82 papers on international journals. She has been and is currently involved, as WP and task leader in several research projects, including H2020-MOZART and H2020-GIOTTO.

Working group @Polito

Chiara Vitale Brovarone, Associate Professor (DISAT)

Carlotta Pontremoli, PhD student (DISAT)

Alessandra Bari, PhD student (DISAT)

Enrico Peretti, Fellowship (DISAT)


Academic partner

Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Farmacia

Non-academic partner

Nobil Bio Ricerche s.r.l. 

  • Budget: 150.000
  • Start date: 15/09/2017
  • End date: 14/09/2019