Rebuilding the body

Biomaterials with built-in receptors that can interact with human cells at the molecular level could be used as scaffolding to help construct new cartilage and skin, according to Dr Richard France speaking at the British Association's Festival of Science in Sheffield today (17.9.99). These materials, being developed by Dr France and colleagues at the University of Sheffield, could allow surgeons to grow and transfer a tailor made patch of skin onto a patient's scar, burn or ulcer or to grow a section of cartilage for reconstructive surgery.

These new biomaterials are being made using plasma polymerisation techniques that allow researchers to control the behaviour of the tissue growth culture using the molecular properties of the material itself. The materials are made by injecting an organic molecule into a plasma of ionised gas. This causes a thin plasma polymer deposit to be formed around the molecule while retaining some of the chemistry of the starting molecule.

The research team are looking to tailor-make materials with particular molecular attributes that can be used in degradable scaffolds that will automatically shape a growth of skin or cartilage to form the required shape. "Cartilage constructs grown in this manner could even be used to replace cartilage in the knee," suggests France. Clinical trials on these products are currently underway in the USA and they are likely to see clinical application within five years.


Contact: Andrew McLaughlin
Institute of Materials

Page: 1

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