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Synthetic, 'tunable' bioabsorbables target new medical applications

Article-Synthetic, 'tunable' bioabsorbables target new medical applications

Newly developed urethane-based medical plastics can be tuned to degrade and may extend use of bioabsorbable polymers into new medical applications such as orthopedic treatments, wound care and tissue engineering. According to officials of Lubrizol LifeScience Polymers (Wickliffe, OH) interviewed by PlasticsToday, the new compounds offer significant design advantages over polylactide-based plastics that currently dominate bioabsorbable healthcare applications.

"We can control the rate of absorption as well as the strength and stiffness of the compound," said Ralf Hüther, global medical device manager for Lubrizol. The desired abrasion resistance can also be "tuned" depending on the requirements of the end applications.

Lubrizol says that the design flexibility of the new compounds allows them to overcome strength and longevity challenges that have prevented the widespread use of existing bioabsorbable materials in some applications.

Current compounds are now widely used primarily in three areas in the healthcare field: operative assistance, damage healing and drug release.

The new materials may open up opportunities in new areas where there elastomeric properties permit use in meshes, foams or hernia and organ repair.

The ability to enhance creep resistance and strength of bioabsorbable polymers can preserve the structural integrity of tissue until healing is complete, for example. Controllable degradation rate makes the materials good candidates for scaffolds that promote growth of new tissue.

The polymers are produced in situ in a manufacturing plant in Wilmington, MA, but can be made elsewhere, said Uwe Winzen, global marketing manager for Lubrizol LifeScience Polymers.

Most bioabsorbable plastics are made primarily from natural resources such as corn, sugar cane or animals. The Lubrizol product is synthetic.

Lubrizol was founded in 1928 to produce a graphited lubricant for vehicle fluids and entered the engineered plastics business in 2004 with the acquisition of Noveon International (formerly BF Goodrich Performance Materials). Dow's thermoplastic polyurethane assets were purchased in 2009.  

Lubrizol became part of Berkshire Hathaway two years ago.

The new bioabsorbable technology was introduced at MD&M West last month in Anaheim, CA. MD&M West is owned and operated by UBM Canon, which also publishes PlasticsToday.

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