Biomaterials are crucial to the development of many modern medical devices and products including biodegradable sutures, bone screws, pins, rods and plates, and scaffolds for regenerating bone, cartilage and blood vessels. With each new discovery comes a chance to solve yet-unmet clinical challenges.
As new research drives the evolution of biomaterials toward increasingly sophisticated applications, the functional requirements of those materials have expanded to include both therapeutic and diagnostic elements, with particular focus on optical imaging capabilities, where Huck Institutes faculty researcher Jian Yang and his Transformative Biomaterials and Biotechnology Lab have recently made several revolutionary innovations.
“My lab focuses on developing materials that can be used for 3-D printing and regenerative engineering,” says Yang. “Polylactones, such as polylactic acid (PLA), are one of the few types of biodegradable polymers that have been widely used in FDA-approved medical devices such as orthopedic fixation devices, tissue engineering scaffolds and drug-delivering micro- or nano-particles. We are innovating this material by making it intrinsically photoluminescent without adding traditional photobleaching organic dyes or cytotoxic quantum dots. That was a challenge previously, but we've managed to do it now.”
By modifying the PLA polymer to be intrinsically fluorescent, the Yang lab has made a biodegradable material that can also be useful in bioimaging, diagnosis, sensing and other related applications.
In one of their research projects, the Yang lab makes the PLA polymer into nanoparticles that can carry chemotherapeutic drugs to target cancerous tumors.
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