The work by Joe Landolina and Suneris Inc., highlighted by Stacey Johnson in her recent post, helps bring to the forefront the industry’s motivation to utilize “smart biomaterials”.
Smart biomaterials refers to biomaterials that have the ability to morph or communicate, which scientifically means to change their physical or chemical properties when an external physical or chemical stimulus is applied. There are a variety of stimuli that can be employed. For example, in my post on “the tooth tattoo”, the external stimulus was a pathogenic bacteria that got the electrons flowing in the material and sent an electrical signal to a nearby receiver. For Landolina’s VetiGel, the stimulus is the blood.
VetiGel demonstrates how biomaterials can have every day applications – in this case, wound healing.
Other biomaterial work, which I think pushes boundaries, is the research being conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM). Believe it or not, AFIRM has successfully performed face and hand transplants and is in the process of recruiting for multiple clinical trials. Our biomaterial team at CCRM had the privilege of meeting the director of AFIRM, Dr. Joachim Kohn, and seeing a presentation on their latest work.
AFIRM receives most of its funding from the United States Armed Forces. The research focuses on four distinct areas of repair and regeneration: limbs, nerves, face and skin (burns and scars). Their work is aimed at helping wounded soldiers who get injured through combat in the field. I see the wound-healing device VetiGel as a good fit with this new era of biomaterials for dynamic real-time wound repair and that is, no doubt, why the U.S. military is in discussions with Suneris for the technology. Soldiers in the field do not have time to go to a hospital, so a product like VetiGel, which is easy to apply and works instantly upon contact, is an ideal solution.
There is one more note-worthy technology I would like to mention here and it falls under the category of 4D printing. We’ve all heard about 3D printing, but are you aware of 4D printing? Just as the name implies, this concept introduces a fourth dimension: time. As depicted in this CNN video, with the passage of time and extended exposure to an environmental cue such as water, the linear material contracts and changes its shape to form the letters MIT. This is unique because it’s not the normal swelling that you witness from materials exposed to water. I interpret this to mean that stimuli responsive biomaterials, or smart biomaterials, work in the fourth dimension too because, over time, the material’s architecture and physical traits change.
Since my introductory post on the evolution of biomaterials, and my meeting with Dr. Kohn, I realize that another evolution may be just around the corner. A big push appears to be coming from the defense community for targeted innovation of new smart biomaterials for real-time dynamic application. Actually, looking at current research and the tremendous progress made thus far, it appears this wave of biomaterial evolution in the fourth dimension is already here.
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