January 19, 2011

2 Min Read
Nanostructured Synthetic Polymers Promote Cell Growth

A laser-based technology developed by an international, multidisciplinary team of scientists has facilitated the creation of novel nanostructured synthetic polymers. Optimized for promoting cell growth, the materials could help to advance reconstructive surgery and improve treatment of burn victims.

When treating severe burn victims through surgical intervention, a lack of sufficient skin to graft on especially damaged areas may necessitate growth of new skin from the patient's own cells. This process is typically carried out on a polymeric material substrate, which is conducive to such growth. However, defects or flaws in the material structure can delay or compromise cell growth, according to scientists involved in the European Eureka R&D organization. This team of Austrian, Czech, and Polish scientists believe that they may have developed a surface treatment method that may expedite and improve this process, however.

At the core of the breakthrough is a laser-based technology dubbed EUV for extreme ultraviolet. Formed with a mirror, a beam of extreme ultraviolet light is directed at the surface of the polymeric material. Precision of 10 to 20 nm can be achieved by the EUV process; conventional methods, in contrast, achieve a precision of 100 nm, according to the researchers.

"One of the newest theories in the field of cell growing is that the smaller the structure, the wider the possibilities to manipulate cells," says Johannes Heitz, a professor and member of the research team.

The surface alteration of the polymers does not affect the materials' structure, unlike other surface modification methods. It also, according to the scientists, enables different types of cells to grow better and faster than other processes, depending on the polymer surface used.

In addition to their use in growing skin cells for burn victims, the laser-treated polymers could be employed in the design of entire artificial implants. The EUV-treated materials could reduce instances of implant rejection, the scientists speculate, because the materials could be optimized to interact with a specific part of a patient's body. Additional uses of the modified nanostructured polymers could include microelectronics, integrated optics, and nanocomposite materials development.

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