05.04.2022 - Green technology, Photonics & Smart materials

Biomaterials: a high-added-value industry

Human life expectancy is rising, and scientists are looking for ways to help people maintain a high quality of life for as long as possible. One of these solutions is the development of materials and implants for regenerating and replacing bone tissue.

 And this is exactly what the specialists of the Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence in Riga are working on. The center’s researchers develop materials that simulate the natural structure of bone tissue, paying particular attention to its inorganic part. The granulated biomaterials they have created can be used in clinical contexts, as filler in repairing bone defects, and as a system for delivering drugs and bioactive molecules.

Processing eggshells into biomaterials

The team consists of 60 scientists. The center is working on a number of Horizon 2020 and Latvian Council of Science grants and other international projects. For example, the researchers are developing a technology that will make it possible to process eggshells into biomaterials for regenerating bone tissue. Another project involves work on creating injectable biomaterials for regenerating soft tissue after face and jaw surgeries or injuries. There is also research into the addition of cannabidiol to implant materials to promote the healing of injuries and reduce risks of inflammation.

Jānis Ločs, head of the Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence, pointed out that the most successful projects are those where the industry partner plays the leading role. For example, there is currently a project carried out in conjunction with an Italian company, and its team works jointly on osteochondral implants that are necessary for situations when both the bone and the cartilage are damaged. In these situations, the cartilage part often recovers well, while the bone part, does not so well. The partner’s goal was to improve the implant such that the bone part also heals well, without any interventions in the current production technology at the same time. Pre-clinical trials of the material on a goat model are taking place in Ireland.

Hand in hand with 3D printing

“We can’t do everything related to biomaterials. Our capacity is limited, and so we must focus on one specific field. This is why we’re working specifically on materials for regenerating bone tissue,” J. Ločs said. This is a very important field of research, as orthopedic diseases and rehabilitation are one of the three leading causes of losing one’s capacity to work. Thus, the center focuses on developing materials to solve this problem.

J. Ločs noted that in the very near future his colleagues would start working hand in hand with 3D printing technologies. It could look like this: after sustaining an injury, a patient comes to the hospital, where they are examined using computer tomography. While the patient is being prepared for surgery, artificial intelligence designs the necessary implant, which is immediately printed in the operating room. He emphasized that each of these stages already exists, with computer tomography, and suitable artificial intelligence solutions. 3D printing still does not advance as fast, and all of these technologies have not yet been put together in a single package. However, J. Ločs expects that it could become a reality in 15 years.

Source: labsoflatvia,com, Baltic Business Quarterly

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