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12/10/14     QMed published an article recently listing 6 important material advances in the micro medical device field that are changing how we do things today. blog - 120914 material advances 1

1. Synthetic Collagen Fibers – Researchers at Rice University have been working on better understanding collagen fibers and how they can self-assemble with their sticky ends.
The study explains how mimetic peptides developed at the university may align to form helices with sticky ends that will allow them to aggregate into fibers or gels.
Once arranged in the correct order, the charged amino acids cross-link into non-covalent bonds that hold the helices together with stabilizing hydrogen bonds.
This could pave the way to better synthetic collagen for tissue engineering to be used in cosmetic and reconstructive medicine.

2. Biodegradable Orthopedic Materials – German researchers are using powder injection molding to manufacture a suture anchor made of degradable metal ceramic composites.  Their research used a metal component based on iron alloy combined with beta-tricalcium phosphate as the ceramic component.  They have concluded that the iron alloys corrode slowly and ensure higher mechanical strength while the ceramic decomposes quickly and simulated bone growth while aiding he ingrowth of the implant.  This means biodegradable implants that can be completely absorbed by the body, getting rid of the need for additional surgery to remove the implant.  Many avenues are currently being explored in the biodegradable implant field. The key difference in this german study is the powder injection molding process.  This process allows:
a. the production of complex structures cost effectively and in high quantities
b. properties like density and porosity to be controlled selectively – a crucial aspect when developing materials with high mechanical strengths.
This type of research could revolutionize the way surgical procedures are done in the future as well as serve as a building block for other biodegradable implants.

3. Open-cell Silicones – In the search for new medical device materials, the choice is between open- and closed-cell structures. A common open-cell material being polyurethane, is primarily used in non-implantable products  like cleaning devices and absorbent pads. The commonly used closed-cell material is silicone, which is biocompatible but unsuitable for implantation.  And todays open-cell silicones are not fully open-cell structures.  This could all change… a company in California has developed a manufacturing process that produces fully open-celled silicones suitable for a variety of implantable short term & long term medical device applications.  They can also play a role in tissue scaffolding, tissue integration and cell seeding.

4. Blood Clot and Bacteria Resistant Coating Material – Harvard University has created a surface coating for medical devices that repels blood and bacteria which helps the body ward off infection and avoid harmful blood clotting.  The genesis of the material for the coating evolved from a pioneering surface technology – SLIPS (Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces). SLIPS is designed to repel almost any material it contacts.

5. Shape Memory Polymers – Shape shifting thiolene/acrylates could open the door to a host of applications in medical technology. Researchers at UT Dallas used previous 3M technology on thiol-type polymers because of its ability to soften and change shape under human body temperatures.  It could be used as implantable nerve tags that could read electrical signals in an arm stump to power robotic prosthetics. It has great adhesion with metals which makes it a highly useful flexible electrical material.

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6. Tough Degradable Material – One limitation of many resorbable biomaterials is their strength. They are very strong at first, then their strength degrades quickly.  A Swedish company “knitted” together two degradable polymers to create a surgical mesh that provides tissue support for 6-9 months. The first polymer, TMC, was engineered for fast resorption, giving strength for 2 months. The second, a copolymer of lactide and TMC, maintains strength for 6-9 months, then completely degrades within 3 years.  The quick dissolving fiber offers the initial strength once implanted to keep the tissues tight. Once this fiber dissolves, the second is a more elastic mesh. This variable strength and elasticity profile assists the body in healing itself. This fiber is currently being used in hernia reconstruction and breast surgery.

With this wave of new material technology, the way we use medical devices will change greatly and aid in the healing process of the body.