Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have created a new material that could soon replace human tissue. The novel material consists solely of components that have already been shown to work well in the body.
The foundation of the material is the same as plexiglass that has been redesigned through nanostructuring. Funnily enough, the researchers stumbled accidentally on the soft material while trying to produce a hard material that could serve as a bone replacement.
"We were really surprised that the material turned to be very soft, flexible and extremely elastic. It would not work as a bone replacement material, we concluded. But the new and unexpected properties made our discovery just as exciting," said Anand Kumar Rajasekharan, Ph.D. in Materials Science and one of the researchers behind the study.
The new material is suitable for many applications that require high elasticity, easy processability, and suitability for medical uses.
"The first application we are looking at now is urinary catheters. The material can be constructed in such a way that prevents bacteria from growing on the surface, meaning it is very well suited for medical uses," said Martin Andersson, research leader for the study and Professor of Chemistry at Chalmers.
The new material can easily be treated to become antibacterial which can help reduce the need for antibiotics. Furthermore, it can be injected via keyhole surgery which can help avoid drastic surgery to rebuild parts of the body. It can also be 3D printed into specific structures.
"There are many diseases where the cartilage breaks down and friction results between bones, causing great pain for the affected person. This material could potentially act as a replacement in those cases," Andersson added.
Finally, the material contains three-dimensionally ordered nanopores that can be loaded with medicine. As such it can be used in therapeutic purposes such as improving healing and reducing inflammation. In plastic surgery applications, it can also work as a filler.
The study was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.