‘Efforts to produce synthetic replacements that have the right physical characteristics and that can also degrade in the body have been ongoing for decades.’
A team of researchers from the UK and US have used succinic acid to ‘fine tune’ the rate at which a new thermoplastic biomaterial degrades in the body. The mechanical properties can also be independently controlled.
Reporting their work in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers, from Birmingham University, UK, and Duke University, US, say that by adding succinic acid to the polyester biomaterial, the rate of degradation can be controlled, with healthy tissue eventually replacing an implant.
The researchers explain that materials successfully replicating the necessary elasticity and strength of biological tissues, but also biodegrading over an appropriate timescale are extremely difficult to engineer. This is due to the fact that the chemistry used to produce a material’s properties will also typically govern the rate at which it degrades. Professor Andrew Dove, co-author of the study said; ‘Efforts to produce synthetic replacements that have the right physical characteristics and that can also degrade in the body have been ongoing for decades.’
However, the team has found that by varying the amounts of succinic acid, a product naturally occurring within the body, the rate at which water penetrates the material and hence the degradation speed can be controlled. The team added that the new material has been designed with specific stereochemistry that mimics natural rubber allowing its mechanical properties to be finely controlled. This advance, the researchers say, has so far not been achieved in any other degradable biomaterial.
Professor Matthew Becker, who holds dual appointments in chemistry and mechanical engineering and material science at Duke University said; ‘The materials we have developed offer a real advance in the ongoing research for new biomaterials. The tuneable nature of the material makes it suitable for a range of different applications, from replacement bone to vascular stents to wearable electronics.
Additional work to prove biocompatibility of the material and its use in more advanced demonstration is ongoing.’