Date Published: 13 October 2006
Implanting new technology into the world of medicine - Glasgow Univ
New technology being developed by Glasgow University researcher Dr Huabing Yin could significantly increase the success of artificial implants.
Implants, such as artificial knee and hip joints, heart valves and pacemakers, are regularly used to replace damaged parts of the human body. The safety and effectiveness of implants critically depends on their compatibility with existing human organs, tissues, and cells. This is known as ‘biocompatibility’.
Because many of the implants and devices are made from engineering materials such as metal and plastic, they are often rejected by the body because they are not biocompatible with the surrounding human cells.
However, Dr Yin is developing a new coating for these implants which could reduce the likelihood of rejection. The coating will recreate the surrounding cells’ natural environment thus tricking the cells into thinking the implant is part of the body’s natural system.
Dr Yin said:
“ Wonderful devices have been created in the field of engineering but the materials that are used in engineering are not always compatible with living cells. By coating the devices in an interface which contains all the constituents you would find in the surrounding cells natural environment we can bring together engineering with biomedical systems to increase the success rate of the implants for the patient.”
Another application of this technology is in the field of drug development and diagnosis of diseases. An important phase of drug development is the testing of promising drugs on living cells to assess their toxicity and harmful effects. In industry, tens of millions of cells are normally cultured for days to reach a suitably stable status before the test. Dr Yin’s coating will help keep cells in a manufactured natural environment allowing them to reach a more stable condition sooner and using far fewer cells, thus reducing time and money.
Dr Yin explained:
“ This technology could save the drug development industry a lot of time and money by replacing cumbersome testing methods which need continual supervision by staff. By allowing the cells to be kept alive and stable drug development companies will be able to gather much more reliable data which is vital for the improvement of existing products and the discovery of new treatments.
_ The coating can also be varied depending on the drug company’s specific needs. For example, if a company is trying to develop a new treatment for blood clots, it can be altered to create the same conditions as that of a clotted vein, thus improving the accuracy of predictions of how the tested drugs will affect patients.
_ The cost-saving implications of this type of technology are immense.”
Source: Glasgow University (Scotland).