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What will the prostheses of the future be made of? Will they impart us with superhuman abilities? What role will nanotechnology play in their development? Biomaterials —materials of biological origin that interact with living cells— offer an array of new medical technology opportunities in applications such as prostheses and implants. Nevertheless, experts have signaled a shift in medical treatment from elimination and substitution of materials to tissue regeneration and advanced therapy.

Although the USA is the market par excellence for biomaterials R&D, Catalonia boasts numerous recognized companies and research institutes in this area. At the end of last October Biocat organized the workshop Biomaterials: from bionics to regeneration and advanced therapies, last 20 October 2010, in which experts came together to discuss Catalonia’s strengths in biomaterials and communicate with professionals from the local sector.

The era of smart biomaterials

To date there have been three generations of biomaterials: industrial materials, originally designed for other applications, that are inert to the human body; materials specifically designed to be bioactive and absorbable; and hybrid materials designed to provoke specific cellular responses at the molecular level in order to help the body heal itself.

During the Industrial Revolution —above all, during the early the 20th century— biomaterials underwent major development with the introduction of metals, alloys, ceramics and polymers, and with the advent of new manufacturing technology and processes. According to Dr. Josep A. Planell, director of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the criteria for choosing biomaterials when designing implants comprise mechanical strength and resistance to corrosion; availability in different shapes, to enable mechanization and transformation; and sterilizability.

Planell also underscored that biomaterials must be biocompatible—they must be able to generate an appropriate response in the host as part of a specific application.

The company Sagetis Biotech –winner of the BioEmprendor XXI prize in 2009— is developing a bone cement substitute for use in vertebroplasty (a non-invasive procedure). Dr. Salvador Borrós, the company’s scientific director and a professor of materials science at IQS, stated that there is a currently a paradigm shift “from prostheses to regenerative medicine”.

According to Dr. Montserrat Charles-Harris, head of operations at Neos Surgery, companies working on biomaterials are faced with strict regulatory processes and must make crucial marketing and sales decisions (identifying, and building strategies for, prescriptors, buyers and end users). Neos Surgery holds six patents for the American, EU and Japanese markets. The company’s philosophy is to collaborate with other organizations and research centers.

Histocell is the second leading national company in development of cell therapy products for regenerative medicine. The company’s scientific director, Dr. Begoña Castro, explained that within the near future “We will obtain new biomaterials for regenerative medicine, through an innovative system based on a mixture of agarose and agarase that facilitates culture transport and the recuperation process.”

Dr. Norberto Manzanares, member of the scientific committee and UPC-Klockner Impant System professor, explained the development of dental implants for treatment of maxillary bone defects, analyzing several real clinical cases.

The debate ended with a talk by Dr. Xavier Gil, director of the Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering (BIBITE) group at UPC-CREB, who gave a broad outlook on future trends, challenges and opportunities for the biomaterials area. Gil then served as moderator for the roundtable discussion, which included all of the speakers and attracted heavy audience participation.


    Biomaterials: de la selecció al disseny (Dr. Josep A. Planell)
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    Desenvolupament de biomaterials: de la idea al mercat (Dr. Salvador Borrós)
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    Reptes en la incorporació de nous biomaterials en dispositius mèdics (Dra. Montserrat Charles-Harris)
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    Defectes ossis en maxil·lars tractats amb biomaterials (Dr. Norberto Manzanares)
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    Tecnologies innovadores per a la medicina regenerativa (Dra. Begoña Castro)
    Veure | Download (pdf)

    Tendències i oportunitats de futur dels biomaterials (Dr. Xavier Gil)
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