A TECHNO-ECONOMIC NEWS MAGAZINE FOR MEDICAL PLASTICS AND PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY
Our 12th Year of Publication
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Cover Story

TECHNOLOGY

Trend for Miniaturisation in Medical Technology

Systems and Components for Telemedicine and Point-of-Care Diagnostics

"Medical and microsystem technology are top of the list of technologies in which Germany is leading the field", declares Dr. Gerhard Finking, the Ministerial Counsellor at the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). And if there was ever an event at which these two innovations come together to complement each other perfectly, it’s the ComPaMED. This leading international trade fair for medical device suppliers was held parallel to the MEDICA at the Düsseldorf Trade Fair Centre for the 14th time, serving as further confirmation that innovative materials, miniaturised components and increasingly complex systems are important drivers of technology in a market which is currently estimated at over 180 billion euros.

Financial pressure, particularly in the health sector, means that telemedicine is increasing in importance: "We now have the technology to monitor and care for people on an outpatient basis", explains Professor Harald Korb, Director of Personal HealthCare Telemedicine Services GmbH (Düsseldorf). In particular, there are opportunities for decisive progress in combating cardiovascular disease, which is, with 40,000 cases, still the number 1 killer in Germany. Around 35 billion euros per year are spent on its treatment. According to a position paper by the VDE MikroMedizin Initiative (VDE stands for Verband der Elektrotechnik, Elektronik und Informationstechnik, the Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies, based in Frankfurt a.M.), early detection through telemonitoring enables cost savings of at least 30 per cent.

Tooth Implant Releases Medication into the Mouth

A further example of MST is the "Intellidrug" system developed by the Institute for Micro- and Information Technology (IMIT) of the Hahn-Schickard-Gesellschaft in Villingen-Schwenningen. The aim of this project was to create an automatic dosing system for medicines which is implanted in the patient’s jaw like a double molar and releases its active substances into the body through the mucous membranes of the mouth. "There are a great many advantages to this arrangement", explains Jörg Kohnle, who is responsible for microfluids at IMIT. "The component is easy to access for refilling with active substances and changing the battery, while the mouth provides a considerably less stressful environment for the medication than the chemically-aggressive gastrointestinal tract." This innovative approach is targeted mainly at addicts, who often have problems taking regular medication. Since many of these addicts have bad teeth anyway, it is usually possible to implement the solution without the loss of healthy teeth. "We now want to make our system even smaller and to extend its autonomous effective time, which is currently 14 days", Kohnle explains, talking about his company’s plans for the future.

Synthetic materials are playing an increasingly important role in the world of micro components. This is also true for lab-on-a-chip systems, which integrate several steps for processing samples (e.g. blood) into the surface of a microscope slide. An important component for transporting samples and reagents are micro pumps, which are produced by thinXXS GmbH (Mainz/Zweibrücken), using synthetic materials. A tiny pump, measuring just 25mm in diameter and 5mm in height, made its debut at the ComPaMED. "There are always new synthetic compounds with tailor-made properties being made available. This opens up completely new manufacturing and design opportunities", says Friedrich Echterdiek, CEO of Spang & Brands GmbH in Friedrichsdorf, which produces high-quality synthetic components and system solutions for the medical industry. "The trend for synthetics is continuing, because the components we need can be produced cost-effectively and in large quantities", confirms Armin Hossinger, CEO of Hossinger Kunststofftechnik GmbH (Roding-Mitterdorf). The company developed an active CPAP generator for nebulising medicines, a world first in "preemie" therapy, for Medin. The CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) system is a ventilation therapy for use in intensive care which requires the patient to be able to breathe independently. The single-use product consists entirely of polymers.

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