Emerging Trends In Medical Plastics
The late 1980s and 1990s
represented a major transition period for medical
plastics. Major resin producers were scared off by
litigation issues following failures of silicone implants.
At the same time, markets such as catheters were just
emerging and needed development partners. A new generation
of entrepreneurs emerged to fill the gap.
Today, a great deal of
innovation is occurring in implantable devices and the
demand for suitable polymers is evolving and expanding.
Due to regulatory requirements, small volume consumption,
and high profile litigations in the 1990s related to
implants, many material suppliers are hesitant to serve
this market. Those that do often charge a premium
associated with higher regulatory compliance costs, risk
management costs, and lower volumes purchased.
Medical plastic compounds are
used in a wide variety of segments within the market, such
as devices, equipment housings and tray and fabrics. A
substantial amount of the compounds are used in devices,
which continues to grow at approximately 5-10% on average.
We anticipate plastic compounds used in devices will grow
within this range.
Device makers are anxious to
develop differentiated products and want suppliers to
There is definitely a trend
towards devices with unique attributes from their
materials of composition. Combination products, with drugs
blended into polymers, for local drug delivery or
controlled release is one of the most exciting.
Considerable work is being
done in the area of antimicrobial compounds used for
devices in which bacteria buildup and infection is
Another area involves nano-reinforcements
used to enhance the physical properties of plastics at the
molecular level. This is important for vascular catheters
that are getting smaller with thinner walls, but must be
stiff enough to be pushed through vascular pathways.
Standard fiber reinforcements are simply too large to be
used in these extremely thin walls.
Regulatory requirements for
medical devices have been gradually moving up stream over
the past several years. Tighter material specifications
for medical applications, USP and ISO-10993 testing
compliance, no-change policies for manufacturing or
formulations are some examples. In many cases these
requests have been made of the raw polymer suppliers. This
has made polymer suppliers more aware of the unique
requirements of the medical market.
At the same time, the medical
market often commands a lower volume of raw materials than
other markets, such as automotive or industrial. These
converging dynamics have resulted in some companies
stepping forward to service the market with specialized
grades for medical applications, while others have exited
due to perceived.
(Abstracted from an interview
by Mr. Larry Acquarulo, CEO, Foster Corpo. as published on
the web link :
; Published On : April 4, 2013 )
Polymer Foils For Low Cost
Scientists at the Royal
Institute of Technology (KTH)/SciLifeLab and Fraunhofer
EMFT in Germany show how flexible polymer foils are used
to integrate electronics, micro fluidics and DNA
microarray technology for single mutation DNA analysis.
of polymer foils with different properties and functions
have been merged to integrate heating, microfluidics and
DNA microarray technology into one device. DNA microarrays
offer the possibility for massive parallel DNA analysis.
Traditionally made on glass, they are however difficult to
integrate in low-cost applications. Heat induced assays
such as PCR and melting curve analysis are important
diagnostic tools for the centralized lab, conventionally
performed using benchtop laboratory equipment with precise
temperature control. By using thin flexible polymer foil
components, these powerful technologies can be integrated
to make a standalone labon-a-chip device.
The heating system used here
is based on a novel heating concept using a thin copper
mesh film and has several advantages.
These diagnostic polymer foils
are very interesting alternatives to standard DNA
microarrays, especially when it comes to point of care
diagnostics & Polymer foils can be produced at costs less
than one US dollar and are not dependent on an external
electricity source, other than a battery.
New Medical Device Polymer
System Is A Jack Of All Trades
Researchers in the College of
Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at the University
of Akron (Ohio) have simplified the process of producing
combination products, developing a single, multifunction
polymer system that can incorporate a vast array of drugs,
biologics, vitamins, and other therapeutics.
“We have been able to come up
with an initiating system for ring-opening polymerization,
a process used for creating all polylactic acids and
biodegradable polyesters used in biomaterial
applications,” remarks Matthew Becker, associated
professor of polymer science at the University of Akron.
Constructed of a highly strained, triple-bond molecule
called dibenzylcyclooctyne, the initiating technology is
compatible with a range of biodegradable polymeric
systems, including cyclic lactic acids, caprolactones, and
amino acid–based benzyl-protected Lglutamic acid, which is
of ten conjugated with paclitaxel to treat cancer.
In addition to developing
polymer technology to produce medical devices as
wound-care bandages, the Akron team is also in the early
stages of using the material to create blood vessels.
“While researchers have had real clinical success in using
electrospun nanofibers to fabricate tubes in very precise
ways as surrogates for blood vessels, incorporating
peptides and gross factors to enhance or accelerate
bloodvessel formation remains one of the grand challenges
facing regenerative medicine,” Becker explains. “However,
our new polymer system can be combined with bioactive
species to accelerate this process.”
Composite System Helping To Mend Bones
Ramon Sarasua and Aitor
Larrañaga, researchers in the materials engineering
department of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque
Country, have been studying new materials or
implants that are of interest in medicine and in helping
to mend bones, in particular. They have in fact measured
the effect that the bioglass has on the thermal
degradation of polymers currently used in medicine.
When breaks in the bones are
too big, bones need to be helped. The composites that have
a biodegradable polymer base are very useful in mending
the broken bones or in regenerating bone defects. After
the material has temporarily substituted the bone and
encouraged it to regenerate, it gradually disappears as
the bone returns to its proper place. So this obviates the
need for the second operations required now-a-days to
remove nails and other parts that are inserted in order to
somehow support the bones in major breaks above a critical
These materials or implants
that are of interest in medicine have to meet a number of
requirements before they can be used in therapeutic
applications. Among other things, the materials have to be
biocompatible, in other words, they must not damage the
cells or the organism itself.
The researchers are
synthesising and shaping tailor-made bioimplants. The main
component tends to be a biodegradable polymer that will
gradually disappear as the bone occupies its own place. As
the polymer is too soft, bioglass was added to the polymer
in this piece of work. Bioglass is a bioactive agent and
helps the bone to regenerate; what is more, it gives the
polymer tough mechanical properties. So the biodegradable
polymer/bioglass composite system is stiffer and tougher
than the polymer alone.
The idea to use a polymer to
help broken bones heal is being developed in other places
too. For example, an Israeli company has developed a
polymer membrane that wraps around broken bones and then
helps stimulate bone growth.