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Biomaterials Design

''A biomaterial is any material, natural or man-made, that comprises whole or part of a living structure or biomedical device which performs, augments, or replaces a natural function''.

'' A biomaterial is a nonviable material used in medical device,so it's intended to interact with a biological system''.

A biomaterial is essentially a material that is used and adapted for a medical application. Biomaterials may have a benign function, such as being used for a heart valve, or may be bioactive with a more interactive functionality such as hydroxy-apatite coated hip implants. Biomaterials are also used every day in dental applications, surgery, and drug delivery (a construct with impregnated pharmaceutical products can be placed into the body, which permits the prolonged release of a drug over an extended period of time).

The definition of a biomaterial does not just include man-made materials which are constructed of metals or ceramics. A biomaterial may also be an autograft, allograft or xenograft used as a transplant material.


Biomaterials are used in:

Joint replacements

Bone plates

Bone cement

Artificial ligaments and tendons

Dental implants for tooth fixation

Blood vessel prostheses

Heart valves

Skin repair devices

Cochlear replacements

Contact lenses

Breast implants

Biomaterials must be compatible with the body, and there are often issues of biocompatibility which must be resolved before a product can be placed on the market and used in a clinical setting. Because of this, biomaterials are usually subjected to the same requirements of those undergone by new drug therapies. All manufacturing companies are also required to ensure traceability of all of their products so that if a defective product is discovered, others in the same batch may be traced.


Biocompatibility is related to the behavior of biomaterials in various envronments under various chemical and physical conditions. The term may refer to specific properties of a material without specifying where or how the material is to be used. For example, a material may elicit little or no immune response in a given organism, and may or may not be able to integrate with a particular cell type or tissue). The ambiguity of the term reflects the ongoing development of insights into how biomaterials interact with the human body and eventually how those interactions determine the clinical success of a medical device (such as pacemaker or hip replacement. Modern medical devices and prostheses are often made of more than one material -- so it might not always be sufficient to talk about the biocompatibility of a specific material.

Also, a material should not be toxic unless specifically engineered to be so -- like “smart” drug delivery systems that target cancer cells and destroy them. Understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the action site is essential for a biomaterial to be effective. An additional factor is the dependence on specific anatomical sites of implantation. It is thus important, during design, to ensure that the implement will fit complementarily and have a beneficial effect with the specific anatomical area of action.

Biopolymers are polymers produced by living organisms. Cellulose and starch, proteins and peptides, and DNA and RNA are all examples of biopolymers, in which the monomeric units, respectively, are sugars, amino acids, and nucleotides. Cellulose is both the most common biopolymer and the most common organic compound on Earth. About 33 percent of all plant matter is cellulose.

Some biopolymers are biodegradable. That is, they are broken down into CO2 and water by microorganisms. In addition, some of these biodegradable biopolymers are compostable. That is, they can be put into an industrial composting process and will break down by 90% within 6 months. Biopolymers that do this can be marked with a 'compostable' symbol, under European Standard EN 13432 (2000). Packaging marked with this symbol can be put into industrial composting processes and will break down within 6 months (or less). An example of a compostable polymer is PLA film under 20m thick: films which are thicker than that do not qualify as compostable, even though they are biodegradable. A home composting logo may soon be established: this will enable consumers to dispose of packaging directly onto their own compost heap.

For help with the design of biomaterials, contact us today and our biomaterials researchers will be glad to help you.

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