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Discovering New Materials
Researchers and scientists from North Carolina State University, led by Dr. Roger Narayan, joint professor of the Biomedical Engineering Department of NC State and the University of North Carolina, have discovered a new material that could be used to develop new implants in humans. The new material can be employed to build devices that could be easily implanted in any part of the human body. The results of the evaluation on this new material have been published in the journal Biomedical Materials.
More specifically, the new material is so unique that could be used, for example, to implant blood glucose sensors for diabetics or artificial membranes that could filter impurities from the blood. These applications have long been dreamed about, but, unfortunately, no adequate materials were available until this day.
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Advantages of the Nanoporous Carbon Membrane
The new material, defined as a nanoporous carbon membrane, does not have the problems associated with traditional materials. Traditional materials (plastic, metals, polymers, etc) usually have an issue with proteins building up around the device. Also, an inflammatory or immunity response from the body to the new device may result in the body not tolerating or even rejecting the implant.
Nanostructured materials are materials with a microstructure of a characteristic length scale of which is on the order of a few (typically 1-100) nanometers. A virus particle may be 1000 nm in length. In this study, the new material developed is a nanoporous alumina membrane coated with diamond-like carbon thin films.
Dr. Narayan believes that this is a breakthrough in biomaterial development. He thinks that this a major step towards the development of new kidney dialysis membranes and many other medical implants that will be better accepted by the body avoiding potential problems with immune responses and implant rejection.
According to the study the new nanoporous carbon membranes are better than traditional materials because they constitute an interface between human tissues and the medical devices. This interface is free of protein build-up.
New materials such as this open up new possibilities to develop new devices that could in turn help medical practitioners and doctors improve the quality of life of their patients. New sensors and new implants could be designed and developed for many of today's medical problems. Although there is no commercial application yet about his new material we should expect to see soon some interesting implant applications.
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Narayan et al (2008). Mechanical and biological properties of nanoporous carbon membranes. Biomedical Materials. 3(3):34107