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Developments in medical textiles, 3rd quarter 2007
published in Issue 70, 3rd quarter 2007
Textiles and textile fibres have long played a vital role in the medical and health care sector. Traditional products include bandages for covering wounds, sutures for stitching together the sides of open wounds to promote healing, substrates for plaster of Paris casts, and incontinence products. However, the role played by fibre-based materials has advanced dramatically in recent years. For example, bioglass fibres are now used in tissue engineering to create new bone structures, and textile scaffolds are being used to promote cell growth and build cell structures. Textile-based stentssmall cylindrical tubes made from biocompatible materialsare helping to support and keep open veins and arteries. Many are complex structures and require the use of sophisticated manufacturing technologies. Textile stents can also be biodegradable over a predetermined period of time, thus avoiding the need to remove them surgically when they are no longer needed. Fibres are also being used in nerve regeneration techniques to repair injuries resulting from trauma or surgery. Furthermore, devices made of textile fibres can be implanted to release therapeutic drugs at controlled rates and for controlled lengths of time.
Bandages have themselves evolved into advanced dressings for wounds and burns which enable antibiotic and other drugs to be delivered directly to the parts of the body where they are needed. Some incorporate agents for stopping blood loss quickly. Recent advances include those from USA-based Area Laboratories, Battelle Memorial Institute, Ethicon, Perlei Medical, Quick-Med Technologies, and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), as well as from New Zealand-based Comvita, UK-based ConvaTec, French company Imedex Biomatériaux, and Norway-based Nycomed Pharma. Sutures have evolved from natural materials obtained from animals intestines to advanced biodegradable or bioabsorbable materials which eliminate the need for further medical attention once stitching has taken place. Recent advances in sutures include those from USA-based Honeywell International, Poly-Med and Tyco Healthcare, as well as those from Biotronik in Switzerland. In casts, moisture-curing resins and glass fibres offer a lightweight and more comfortable alternative to plaster of Paris. Recent advances have been published by BSN Medical in Germany, Ossur in Iceland, and Alcare in Japan. Developments in stents include those from USA-based Ethicon and Scimed Life Systems and UK-based Vascutek. Advances in cell growth technology include the use of reinforced spider silk from Tufts University in the USA as well as supports for cartilage and bone regeneration from Bioretec in Finland. Textile fibres and conduits are also being developed to guide nerve reconnection and regeneration. Recent advances in this field include those from Astra Tech in Sweden, and Oxford Biomaterials in the UK. Other areas of development include antimicrobial fabrics for medical uses from CC Technology Investment of Hong Kong, Foss Manufacturing Company in the USA, and Rhodianyl in France.
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