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New Biomaterial May Replace Arteries, Knee Cartilage

A unique biomaterial developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology could be available in as few as five years for patients needing artery or knee cartilage replacement. It may also be used to speed repair of damaged nerves in patients with spinal cord injuries and as the basis for an implantable drug delivery system.

The biomaterial is unique for several reasons, researchers said. It is biocompatible with body tissue because of its attraction to water; researchers can adjust its mechanical strength as needed; it is compliant like normal body tissue; and it is made from an organic polymer, rather than silicone.

Researchers have completed initial laboratory testing, secured investors for a private start-up company to produce and market the biomaterial, and are now beginning the five- to seven-year process toward obtaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration. That process will include testing in humans.

"The goal is to get the medical implant out to help patients," said lead inventor Dr. David Ku, a professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech and a professor of surgery at Emory University. "But we first need to make sure it's very safe to patients and that it benefits them."

A patent has been allowed on the material, a hydrogel called "Salubria." Its name is derived from the Latin words for "safe" and "healthy." Georgia Tech Research Corporation and Ku will hold the patent, which is expected to be formally granted this spring by the U.S. Patent Office.

Salubria has a high water content, making it similar to, and thus biocompatible with, human tissue, Ku said. It is also unique for three other properties. It is an organic polymer, rather than being made from silicone, which is suspect in inflammatory disorders in breast implant patients. Second, it has enough mechanical strength that it will not burst under normal physiological conditions. And Salubria has eno
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Contact: Jane Sanders
jane.sanders@edi.gatech.edu
404-894-2214
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
19-Feb-1999


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