CBC PEI: A P.E.I. company aims to make body piercings safer

P.E.I. company is trying to make body piercings safer, and reduce the risk of infection.

BioPierce Canada Ltd., based in Souris, is working to create a thin, biodegradable sleeve which will cover piercing posts, and slowly release antiseptics.

“We’re driven by the possibility that we might really make a difference in making … something that’s a universal custom — which is piercing — into something that’s much safer than it has been,” said company co-founder Norman Silber, who lives in New York, and spends his summers on P.E.I.

The idea all started in 2002, when Silber’s daughter, Michaella, was 12 years old. She had an infection from her ear piercings and was using antibiotics and cotton swabs to treat it.

“In the back seat of the car she got quite irritated and wondered out loud why, when they pierced your ears, the posts didn’t have a design which allowed them to dispense the anti infective medicine from the inside coming out. And I thought that was really quite interesting, and essentially followed up on it.” said Silber.

Ali Ahmadi, an assistant professor at UPEI, is developing a prototype for the biodegradable sleeve. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Silber got in touch with a childhood friend who is a cardiologist a few years ago. Inspired by technology used in cardiac stents, the two set to work creating a design and have applied for a provisional patent.

With the help of the research organization Mitacs, they are now working with Ali Ahmadi, an assistant professor at UPEI, who is developing a prototype for their design.

Ahmadi is working on designing the sleeves, which will be 3D printed out of biomaterials, which are specifically designed to interact with biological systems.

Biomaterials aren’t new, but the way Ahmadi is aiming to design the sleeve — with what he describes as “pockets of drugs in it” — is.

Microbeads are also being developed by Ahmadi and his students. The microbeads will be injected with antiseptics and will be used within the sleeves. (Sara MacMillan/CBC)

“As it biodegrades, it’s going to release these drugs over time into the body, and prevent that future infection. So to visualize it, it would look like a sleeve that would go around that stud or pin that is inserted into the body,” said Ahmadi.

He — along with his students — is working on developing both the design for the sleeve, as well as the microbeads that will be injected with antiseptics, which will be used within the sleeve.

Ahmadi and his students have been working on the project for a few months, and hope to have a prototype completed by the end of the year.

In addition to human piercings, Silber and Ahmadi noted that the technology could also be used for animals with things like microchipping.

“The application of this technology and this project in the short term may be to piercing technology, but I see the potential application go beyond that,” said Ahmadi.