Biomaterials science can provide many components for medical devices that can save lives or improve the quality of life for patients. Some of these devices include heart valves, orthopedic prostheses, and intraocular lenses. These devices all interact with biological systems within the body. There has been substantial investment in this area to develop the next generation of medical devices to help with injuries and chronic diseases.
What Is Biomaterials Science?
A biomaterial is any substance or “material” engineered to be implanted into the body to work with a biological system for a medical purpose. This purpose can be therapeutic, such as for treatment, repair, or replacement of a function of the body. It can also be used in diagnoses.
It’s not the same as a biological material, which is produced by the body, such as bones or tissues. Each biomaterial is application-specific and must be biocompatible for that patient.
How Are Biomaterials Made and How Are They Used?
Must biomaterials are created in a lab setting using a variety of components. Such elements include polymers, ceramics, or composite materials.
Biomaterials may act passively in the body, as is the case of a heart valve, or be bioactive, allowing the body to function, such as a hip implant. As a surgical tool, biomaterials may also be part of transplant material or autografts.
Beyond acting as a replacement for biologic material, they are used often in dental applications and drug delivery. Medical devices can be implanted into the body with medications, delivering a prolonged release of the drug over time.
The Impact on Healthcare Today
Biomaterials have become a critical tool for the healthcare community. Through their usage, patients have been able to achieve more favorable outcomes. The rise of their use is continuing to grow as researchers and innovators find new applications for them.
Many experts believe that the future of innovative medical devices and regenerative medicine rests upon the use of biomaterials. Looking to what’s next, material engineering will need to continue to evolve to creative biocompatible, bioactive, and bioresponsive biomaterials.
The Future of Biomaterials Science
Let’s look at the role of biomaterials in medical devices and regenerative medicine. The major shift in the market is from these components playing more of a passive role to taking over a body function. While the current state of the market is certainly helping to improve patient outcomes, there is now a higher expectation around the potential for biomaterials.
Biomaterials just performing a function is great, but what about the opportunities that lie ahead which incorporate active interaction? That’s where research is headed. For example, a biomaterial could instruct the body to take a function like triggering regeneration or stopping infections. Consider what an amazing breakthrough this would be.
The next generation of biomaterials could have the capacity to do things the medical community doesn’t currently have an answer for, like spinal cord injuries, antibiotic-resistant infections, and nerve damage.
The current drive is to develop materials that have a more advanced interaction with the body’s environment. There will be a greater need to formulate models that are more physiologically representative versus current systems based solely on cell and tissue 2D cultures.
One of the most significant challenges in bridging the gap between lab and medical use is the translation of research. This is a familiar challenge in the healthcare community. Researchers have a focus on developing the idea but often don’t have the ability to translate that into a product.
For biomaterials to reach the next level, researchers and medical device experts will most likely need a liaison—one that talks the language of academia and business. Such a collaboration could include translating what’s been possible in the lab to something clinically applicable. Further, scientists need assistance to understand how an invention becomes a product, which requires regulations approval, a business plan, and scalability.
Any biomaterials science professional, as well as medical device companies, ultimately have the same goal—to improve a patient’s quality of life. In the next five to 10 years, rapid advancements of biomaterials should take place, enhancing the medical devices already in use, and launching new capabilities.
Biomaterials science will continue to have a major impact on the medical devices industry. If that includes you, then you may find it advantageous to have conversations with scientists and researchers about the potential they see for the future and the roadblocks standing in the way. Developing relationships with biomaterials science experts can only benefit your organization and its level of knowledge in this incredibly significant market.
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Beth Osborne is a professional writer and content marketer with multiple years of experience in healthcare IT marketing. Learn more about her by visiting her website.