Non-toxic rubbery substance could be used to replace biotissue
When Swedish scientists recently set out to create a rigid bone-replacement material, they inadvertently ended up producing a soft and rubbery substance. That's all right, though, as it may end up being even more useful than the bone stand-in.
Developed by a team at Chalmers University of Technology, the biocompatible material is similar in composition to plexiglass, which is already used in various medical applications. Unlike plexiglass, however, it's very soft, flexible and elastic, plus it's filled with a three-dimensional network of nanoscale pores.
Those nanopores can be loaded with medication, which gradually dissipates out of the material. This means that a drug-loaded piece of the material could be implanted in the body to deliver medication precisely where it's needed, minimizing the side effects and higher dosages that would come with oral administration of the same drug.
It could additionally be used to replace cartilage or other soft tissue within the body. This could involve 3D printing replacement parts (such as spinal discs) ahead of time, then implanting them via traditional surgical methods. Because the material starts out as a viscous fluid, though, it could also be injected into the target site through a small opening – it would subsequently take on its rubbery form once inside the body.
That said, the proposed first use of the material is for infection-resistant urinary catheters. Their surfaces will be coated with proteins known as peptides, which will kill harmful bacteria on contact.
The technology is being commercialized by spinoff company Amferia.
A paper on the research, which was led by Prof. Martin Andersson and PhD student Anand Kumar Rajasekharan, was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.