Who said video games can’t be good for your health? In 2011, Joe Landolina and Kenny Mai won the Time Warner Cable Inno/Vention Competion through an innovative look at the common Band-Aid. Landolina and Mai’s award-winning idea involved using plant polymers that would form into an organic gelatinous bandage to stop bleeding, aid in preventing infection and encourage skin cell reproduction.
Once applied the polymer bandage would stay on the skin for fourteen days. How many bandages have you put on that have lasted that long? Landolina has gone on to form a company to sell what he calls Veti-Gel, and time will only tell how popular the product becomes. The US Military has shown some interest in it already.
Now what makes this story even more interesting is the fact that Landolina and Mai modeled their biomedical polymer invention after something that millions of gamers have used when playing Mass Effect. In the game, players can use Medi-Gel, which shares many of the same properties as Veti-gel to heal lacerations.
This example of ingenuity in using biomedical polymers is just one of many out there, and there are so many different types from nylon to silicone, which have been used for a wide variety of applications. For an idea of the many types out there, please check out this link showcasing the many different biomedical polymers. Here are just some of the limitless possibilities out there in this exciting field of biotechnology:
Drug-delivery: One of the most common forms of biotechnology you’ll see biomedical polymers is in drug delivery. Using advanced chemical engineering technology, engineers have used synthetic smart polymers to solve a major question for researchers and scientists: how do you allow drugs to get to a specific part of the body without getting absorbed by the highly acidic stomach. Using a chemical trigger in most cases, smart polymers release the drug when it reaches the desired body part.
Angioplasty: A blocked artery used to be a death sentence, but angioplasty balloons have helped save the lives of millions of Americans and prevented many more from getting invasive bypass surgery. In a nutshell, an angioplasty involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter through to the cardiovascular system to the affected artery. The surgeon will inflate the balloon for a minute to clear the blockage. While cardiologists used PVC in the past, nylon is now the standard.
Bone Regeneration: Calcium phosphate and other bioceramics have been used to encourage bone regeneration, but the use of these materials can be risky because of how fragile they are. In order to avoid any complications, many scientists and engineers are looking at synthetic biomedical polymers because of their non-toxicity and biodegradable properties. PLA and PLGA are among the synthetic polymers out there that have shown promise.
There’s no question that the future of health will depend in part on how well we can use these biomedical polymers to treat patients. Given just the few applications listed above among many others like tissue regeneration and surgical implants, the possibilities out there are truly limitless.
- information on angioplasty balloons
- information on use of polymers for bone regeneration
- article on how polymers are being used for drug delivery
- License: Creative Commons image source
Chris Smart is a chemical engineer major from the Midwest.