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Articles from 2009 In August


Silk Serves as Base for Nanoparticle Composites

An atomic force microscope image shows a silk film on which gold nanoparticles were grown. Image: Georgia Tech

An atomic force microscope image shows a silk film on which gold nanoparticles were grown. Image: Georgia Tech

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta) have produced strong and flexible nanometer-scale composite films by combining silk with metallic particles. Boasting unusual mechanical and optical properties, the synthetic material could be used in future medical technologies and antimicrobial films. The fabrication process uses silk as a template. First, the researchers dissolved silk cocoons and placed the resulting material onto a silicon substrate using a spin-coating method. The newly created multilayer film is then patterned into a template by employing a nanolithography technique and subsequently immersed in a solution containing metal ions such as silver or gold. “Because silk is a protein, we can control the properties of the surface and design different kinds of surfaces,” explains Eugenia Kharlampieva, a postdoctoral researcher. “This surface-mediated approach is flexible at producing different shapes. We can apply the method to coat any surface we want, including objects of complex shapes.” Once placed in the solution, the template facilitates nanoparticle formation. Occurring in a room-temperature, neutral-pH, water-based environment, nanoparticle growth can be precisely controlled in terms of particle size and spacing, according to the researchers. The silk-nanoparticle film features equally dispersed particles that remain separate; optical properties of the film are determined by nanoparticle material and size. It is characterized by high tensile strength, high elasticity, and toughness. The scientists maintain that such a process could reduce associated production costs and environmental impact.

Glenbrook Receives Inventors Hall of Fame Honors

This capability is not available in any of todayâEUR(TM)s other radiological imaging modalities. This technology is now used by most major medical device manufacturers in the United States, for development and production, as well as for preclinical and research studies, to ensure the quality of medical implants. Glenbrook is only the fifth recipient of the Invention Advancement Award, granted to individuals or organizations in New Jersey that advance inventive, innovative and entrepreneurial activities, making a positive impact on peopleâEUR(TM)s lives. Previous winners were the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology (1999), the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (2000), the New Jersey Technology Council (2001) and the Biotechnology Council of New Jersey (2002). The New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame is based at Stevens Institute of Technology. The Invention Advancement Award, and the Hall of FameâEUR(TM)s other awards, will be presented at a dinner held at Stevens Institute on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009.

Free MPMN Webcast Highlights Biomaterials for Implantable Devices

Patients who have ever had a knee implant or worn a catheter know firsthand how implantable medical devices have become a way of life for millions. But what makes such devices compatible with the human body? How do device makers ensure that the implants they market will not be rejected by the body's immune system? In this Webcast, "Biocompatible Polymers for Implantable Medical Device Applications," panelists specializing in the science and technology of biocompatible polymer materials for implantable medical device applications will focus on materials, material structures, biointegration, and bioresorbability. The Webcast is hosted by Medical Product Manufacturing News and cosponsored by Biomedical Structures LLC and AdvanSource Biomaterials. Biomedical Structures is a contract medical device manufacturer that uses resorbable and nonresorbable fibers to manufacture braids, knits, and woven and nonwoven structures for medical device applications. AdvanSource Biomaterials is a leading materials technology company that provides thermoplastic polycarbonates, aromatic and aliphatic ether-based polyurethanes, extrudable hydrophilics, antimicrobial product lines, and specialized coatings specifically tailored to optimize customers' device characteristics. Register now for the free live Webcast slated for Wednesday, August 26, 2009, at 11 am PST/ 2 pm EST. Speakers include: Arikha Moses, Chief Scientific Officer, TYRX Inc. Tyrosine-Derived Polyesteramides: Novel Resorbable Polymers for Combination Products Scott DeFelice, President & CEO, Oxford Performance Materials PEKK: Rigid and Flexible Polymer System for Long-Term Implants Max Maginness, CTO, Healionics Corp. Biointegrating Materials: Going Beyond Biocompatibility

Orthopedics Hub Rides Out Recession

Indiana is the place to be for orthopedic device manufacturers.

Indiana is the place to be for orthopedic device manufacturers.

The Indianapolis Star recently reported that, despite the turbulent economic environment, orthopedic device manufacturers in the state appear to be holding steady. And if there's any region that can act as a barometer for the orthopedics sector, it's the Hoosier state. After all, three of the Top-10 orthopedics manufacturers call the state— and even more specifically, the city of Warsaw—home, as do a variety of suppliers and smaller medical device OEMs. Accounting for roughly a quarter of all jobs in Warsaw's Kosciusko County, the orthopedics and life sciences industries continue to dominate the area, despite mounting obstacles. Stymied by FDA turnover and potential healthcare reform, the area's manufacturers are somewhat nervous about what the future may hold, the newspaper reports. Such change could slow down time to market and force OEMs to reduce prices, for example. And, although companies are staying afloat better than those in various other industries, they are experiencing setbacks from the recession as the uninsured opt to delay nonemergency surgeries such as joint replacements. But despite some slipping revenue, the companies seem to be optimistic that they will ride out the recession by maintaining if not gaining. Read more about The Orthopedics Capital of the World, Warsaw, Indiana, and its role in the medtech industry from the pages of MPMN.

Big Growth Opportunities in Neurostimulation

It projects growth rates of 14âEUR"23% for certain technologies in this area through 2012. According to Harry Glorikian, managing partner at Scientia, the firm expects that as devices begin to show more safety and efficacy, doctors will recommend implants over drugs (or their use in conjunction with drugs) to their patients. The biggest opportunities in neurostimulation should come through small devices that are more user friendly with longer battery life and better feedback mechanisms, according to the study. Scientia expects the fastest growth to occur in three key areas: 1. Deep Brain Stimulation. This technology treats 6% of the 6 million U.S. patients who have disorders such as Parkinson's, tremors, and dystonia. Emerging treatments include epilepsy, depression, and muscular disorders. 2. Spinal Cord Stimulation. This method treats chronic pain. Scientia estimates that when this technology is used with conventional drug therapy, pain is decreased by 50%. 3. Sacral Nerve Stimulation. Scientia cites this technology as a last resort treatment for serious bladder or fecal incontinence. It estimates that 13 million people in the United States have severe incontinence. In the past 12 years, nearly 50,000 patients have been treated with sacral nerve stimulation worldwide.

Nanostructure Engineering May Benefit Medical Coatings Applications

Researchers at the State Key Laboratory of Electroanalytical Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS; Beijing) have demonstrated the potential of using biofilms for nanostructure engineering. Describing the use of biofilms as engineering materials for nanostructures and demonstrating it using zinc oxide nanorods, the scientists says that since biofilms are gel-like matrices that can be adhered on several substrates, such bilateral adhesive behavior can be employed to immobilize the nanostructures on various types of substrates. Because of the material's excellent biocompatibility, this strategy can perhaps be marshaled to produce medical coatings and other biomedical products.

While biofilms are generally viewed as pathogenic threats, their complex frameworks, biological behavior, chemical heterogeneity, and physical structure at the micro- and the nanoscale can also be useful in nanofabrication.

Led by Xiurong Yang, a professor at the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, the researchers present strategies that can be applied to the immobilization, fabrication, and organization of nanostructures as long as they can be prepared in an aqueous solution and the precursors can react with a bacterium. Their research shows that biofilms can be an efficient and low-cost approach for large-scale fabrication of various nanostructures.

Using the example of zinc oxide nanostructures, the CAS team explored the use of biofilms in three aspects: immobilization, morphological organization, and selective permeability. They began with the fermentation of Streptococcus thermophilus, a lactic acid bacterium. They then used the resulting biofilm to immobilize zinc oxide nanorods on a polystyrene substrate with a curved surface (the inner wall of a centrifuge tube). These as-grown zinc oxide nanostructures remained quite stable after irradiation sterilization. This technique also worked on other substrates, such as glass, silicon, and indium tin oxide.

"The ingenious structure of biofilms can lead to the synthesis of fantastic nanostructure devices, even beyond the fabrication capability of the current state-of-the-art methods," the authors say.

Glenbrook Technologies Honored by New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame

The New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame has bestowed the Invention Advancement Award for 2009 on Glenbrook Technologies Inc. (Randolph, NJ), a company specializing in x-ray technology. Honoring individuals or organizations in New Jersey that contribute to positive advancements for the improvement of people's lives, the award acknowledges Glenbrook's x-ray technology, "which produces highly magnified fluoroscopic images that reveal tiny anatomical details, and displays them on a video monitor in full motion, using very low levels of radiation," according to Glenbrook. The company maintains that this capability is not currently available in any other radiological imaging modalities, including angiography, digital radiography, MRI, CT, PET or SPET. It is employed by numerous medical device manufacturers to ensure medical implant quality. Gil Zweig, founder and president of Glenbrook Technologies, was previously honored by the organization, earning the title of Inventor of the Year in 1994. In addition, the company was honored with a Life Sciences Award in 2007 presented by the New Jersey Technical Council. Read more about Glenbrook Technologies and the innovation stemming from the New Jersey medtech industry in general in a Regional Focus on the Garden State from the pages of MPMN.

University, Manufacturer Team Up to Supply Implantable Biogenerators

The University of Colorado has granted an option to Biotricity Medical Inc. to develop technology for implantable biogenerators. Providing a long-term, potentially inexhaustible power supply for implantable medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps, the bioregenerators remove the need for repeated surgeries to replace power supplies. The company's first planned product, EpiVolt, is a tiny implantable biogenerator that will provide power to pacemakers, insulin pumps, cochlear implants, artificial retinas, and vagal nerve stimulators. The device is made of living electricity-generating cells that use the body's own natural chemicals and processes to create electric power. "It's an inexhaustible source of power that will be much smaller than the batteries it will replace," explains Simon Rock Levinson, professor of physiology and biophysics at the university's school of medicine. "This will allow the EpiVolt to be permanently implanted in very small spaces along with the device that it powers, without the need for long connecting wires running through the body to a remote battery power source." The company believes its products will improve the quality of life for millions of people with diabetes, chronic pain, and Parkinson's disease, in addition helping those with pacemakers, cochlear implants and other implanted devices. "If the EpiVolt proves to be scalable and commercially feasible, it can be a powerful platform for miniaturisation, expand design flexibility, and push back the practical limitations for implantable electronic medical devices," remarks Rick Silva, director of technology transfer for the University. "We have been impressed by the technical challenges already addressed and are optimistic about demonstrating the feasibility of the technology in animals in the relatively near future."

Bonding with Sea Worms

Scientists have created a glue derived from a marine worm that could help surgeons repair shattered bones. The team of U.S. researchers hopes that the adhesive will eventually replace the metal wires, pins, and screws used to hold bone fragments in place. While avoiding metal hardware in the body, glue would also make it easier to fasten small bone fragments. To create the material, the scientists copied a natural glue secreted by the sandcastle worm, or Phragmatopoma californica, an organism that uses the glue to bond sand grains and seashell fragments together to build a protective dwelling. Strong and impervious to water, the biodegradable adhesive sets in response to changes in acidity, just like the natural glue on which it is based. "We recognized that the mechanism used by the sandcastle worm is really a perfect vehicle for producing an underwater adhesive," remarks team leader Russell Stewart from the University of Utah (Salt Lake City). "This glue, just like the worm's glue, is a fluid material that, although it doesn't mix with water, is water soluble." The team has launched pilot studies to determine how to deliver bioactive molecules within the glue, including antibiotics, pain relievers, and compounds for accelerating healing. "Biocompatibility is one of the major challenges of creating an adhesive like this," Stewart says. "Anytime you put something synthetic into the body, there's a chance the body will respond to it and damage the surrounding tissue. That's something we will monitor, but we've seen no indication right now that it will be a problem."

Medtronic Spends $1 Million in Health Lobbying

The AP says that the company lobbied on the health care reform bills, particularly in comparative effectiveness discussions.

It also lobbied on efforts in the House to make it easier for patients to sue medical device companies via personal injury lawsuits.The medical device industry has argued that overriding the decision would allow state courts to second-guess government medical experts at FDA. Medtronic lobbyists also advocated their position on a bill aimed at updating the U.S. patent system. The pharmaceutical and medical device industries have argued that reform efforts must not weaken patent protections on medical products by reducing infringement penalties. The reform effort has largely stalled in Congress. And finally, Medtronic  lobbied on legislation that would increase the regulation of medical devices manufactured in foreign countries by charging additional user fees for FDA inspections, according to a form filed July 20 with the House clerk's office.