The new material for implants is a nanoporous ceramic membrane, like the one pictured here. The researchers found that such a membrane is immune to rejection and protein build-up.  (Source: Hessel L. Castricum, Ashima Sah)
Revolutionary material could offer clean, non-rejected implants of artificial organs or monitoring devices

Breakthroughs in medical science are almost always welcomed by the millions of people around the world that suffer from numerous illnesses and diseases.  The cutting edge cardiovascular implants and treatments, the tiny blood sugar monitoring devices, and advanced medical scans and tests are just some of miracles yielded by these kinds of breakthroughs that save lives yearly.

Now researchers at NC State have achieved a significant medical breakthrough of their own, devising perhaps the safest and most effective material for implants to date.

The challenge of designing implants is two-fold.  First, implants naturally tend to create inflammatory responses, as the human body's immune system is designed to attack foreign objects.  This can lead to the device being walled off, or rejected completely.  It can also put severe stress on the patient's body.

The second challenge is dealing with the deluge of proteins floating around the body.  Past implant materials, even if they could minimize inflammation, experienced a buildup of body proteins, which clogged any sensors.

In the new study researchers discovered that a special nanomaterial -- nanoporous ceramic membranes -- can fix these problems.  Dr. Roger Narayan, an associate professor in the joint biomedical engineering department of NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, devised the method and says the membrane can "create an interface between human tissues and medical devices that is free of protein buildup".

The material should allow previously unfeasible implants to reach the market.  The most pressing application of this tech will likely be to offer new dialysis devices.  Other potential applications contain blood glucose sensor implants for diabetics and artificial hemo-dialysis membranes that can scrub impurities from the blood.

The study is the first one to look at the biological and physical properties of nanoporous membranes in-depth.  The researchers were somewhat surprised to discover that the material was not rejected by the body.  However, the team's hand in the new research is unsurprising as Dr. Narayan is a pioneer in the field of nanoporous ceramic membranes.

Also contributing to the study were materials science engineering doctoral students Ravi Aggarwal and Wei Wei; NC State postdoctoral research associate Dr. Chunming Jin; Dr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, professor of investigative dermatology and toxicology at NC State's College of Veterinary Medicine and the Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and Pharmacokinetics; and Rene Crombez and Dr. Weidian Shen of Eastern Michigan University.

The new research will is published in a special issue of the journal Biomedical Materials.

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