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Emerging Trends In Medical Plastics

Global Trends

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 contribute ideas.

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 problematic.

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 :
http://www.plasticstoday.com/articles/foster-ceodiscusses-emerging-trends-medicalplastics0403201301 ; Published On : April 4, 2013 )


Polymer Foils For Low Cost Diagnostics

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.

Layers 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.

Ref: http://www.scilifelab.se/index.php?content=news&id=88

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.”

Ref: http://www.qmed.com/mpmn/article/new-medical-device-polymersystem-jack-all-trades#node-90817?cid=nl_qmed_daily

Biodegradable Polymer/Bioglass 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 size.

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.

Ref: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/258538.php#tab6

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