Spun fibers for implants

When we think of wearable health technology, we often think of digital electronics and other complicated gizmos. But the technology can be much simpler and passive, and yet have a profound impact on the lives of people. For example, consider a new material developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Germany. This high-tech spun polymer material can provide the scaffolding required for a patient’s body to grow new tissue.

The three-dimensional non-woven fabric contains no human cells, and is implanted into the body where new tissue is needed to regenerate damaged organs such as heart muscle. Proteins in the material attract specific cells to grow on the scaffolding, resulting in replacement tissue of the desired type. The blue areas in the scanning electron microscope images above show these cells colonizing the fabric.

The spun fibers break down and are assimilated by the body over 48 months, leaving just the newly-grown tissue in its place. The material has already been tested successfully in lab cultures, and animal trials are expected to start soon. In time, the researchers hope to be able to cause the human body to recreate needed tissues. One particular goal is to be able to repair heart valves, getting the body to grow its own replacement parts rather than rely on surgical replacements.