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Nanotextured implant materials: blending in, not fighting back

Biomedical engineers are constantly coming up with ways to repair the human body, replacing defective and worn out parts with plastic, titanium, and ceramic substitutes ?but the body does not always accept such substitutes seamlessly. Engineers from Brown and Purdue universities have found that simply changing the surface texture of implants can dramatically change the way cells colonize a wide variety of materials.

Two recent experiments have focused on the materials used in stents ?those springy little cylinders that hold open once-clogged arteries ?and artificial blood vessels. Currently only about 30 percent of small diameter blood vessel grafts (less than 6 mm diameter) last more than five years, and up to 20 percent of stents need to be replaced because the artery walls thicken in and around them in a process known as restenosis. Drug-coated stents were introduced years ago as one way to combat this problem, but concerns have surfaced recently about increased clotting.

Instead of using chemistry to fight the body's response to such foreign materials, Thomas Webster, an associate professor of engineering, and Karen Haberstroh, an assistant professor of engineering, thought maybe they could use physical structure to allow the foreign materials to blend in better. "What we're trying to do is fundamentally different," says Webster. "We're trying to find materials that the body accepts, rather than develop drugs or develop materials that will kill a cell ?no matter if it kills a bad cell or a good cell. We're trying to find materials that accept good cells, as opposed to killing off bad cells."

Normal healthy blood vessels have a thin lining of specialized cells called the endothelium, surrounded by a thicker layer of smooth muscle cells that make up the arterial wall. The proteins collagen and elastin make up much of this lining and create a texture of fine nanoscale bumps on the inside of the blood vessel. This contrasts strongly with
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Source:Brown University


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