Biomaterial-related infections are a persistent burden on patient health, recovery, mortality and healthcare budgets. Self-assembled antimicrobial peptides have evolved from the area of antimicrobial peptides. Peptides serve as important weapons in nature, and increasingly medicine, for combating microbial infection and biofilms. Self-assembled peptides harness a “bottom-up” approach, whereby the primary peptide sequence may be modified with natural and unnatural amino acids to produce an inherently antimicrobial hydrogel. Gelation may be tailored to occur in the presence of physiological and infective indicators (e.g. pH, enzymes) and therefore allow local, targeted antimicrobial therapy at the site of infection. Peptides demonstrate inherent biocompatibility, antimicrobial activity, biodegradability and numerous functional groups. They are therefore prime candidates for the production of polymeric molecules that have the potential to be conjugated to biomaterials with precision. Non-native chemistries and functional groups are easily incorporated into the peptide backbone allowing peptide hydrogels to be tailored to specific functional requirements. This article reviews an area of increasing interest, namely self-assembled peptides and their potential therapeutic applications as innovative hydrogels and biomaterials in the prevention of biofilm-related infection.
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