2/2009

Targeted drug delivery through new biodegradable materials

Lila Nikkola

The biomaterials developed by Lila Nikkola help control drug dosage
and delivery.

The research of medical biomaterials and implants, such a sutures and bone screws that dissolve in the human body, has a long tradition at TUT. As a result of added functionalities modern implants are, for example, capable of acting as drug carriers.

TUT has achieved international prominence in the field of biomaterials processing and biodegradable implants. Materials developed at the University include biodegradable and active composite materials, such as bioactive glass and biodegradable polymer fibres. These materials replace missing or damaged tissue: as they gradually dissolve, they are replaced with the patient's own tissue. This multidisciplinary research is based on collaboration within an extensive international network.

The latest research topics at the Department of Biomedical Engineering relate to the development of active human spare parts that are tailored to each individual patient. The field brings together the department's expertise in measurement, imaging and modelling technology. Examples of medical biomaterials and implants that dissolve in the human body are sutures and screws used in the internal fixation of bone fractures.

Drug-release devices and cell scaffolds

According to Researcher Lila Nikkola from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, research on degradable implants spans several decades, but recent advances in the field have enabled the development of new features. Modern implants can, for example, be used as vehicles for drug delivery.

"It is quite common that when an implant is inserted into the human body, the foreign material and damaged tissue trigger an infection. A severe or protracted infection can even lead to an implant failure. When used as drug carriers, biodegradable materials allow for the drug to be released directly into the bloodstream to make it available to the whole body, or locally into the damaged tissue."

Tampere to host an international conference on biomaterials and tissue engineering in 2010

The 23rd Annual Conference of the European Society for Biomaterials, ESB 2010 for short, is one of the major conferences on biomaterials and tissue engineering worldwide. National societies for biomaterials take turns arranging the conference. Next year, the Finnish Society for Biomaterials will pick up the baton.

The ESB 2010 conference will be held at Tampere Hall on 11-15 September 2010. The event is expected to attract over 700 experts in the field.

The ESB conferences bring together biomaterials and tissue engineering researchers, medical professionals, manufacturers of biomaterials and associated products, and various experts in the field of biomaterials, medical equipment, implants and pharmaceutical marketing.

The keynote speakers of the upcoming conference are internationally acclaimed biomaterials experts, such as David Kaplan, Tadashi Kokubo, Pekka Jalovaara, Rita Kandel, Serena Best, Neil Cameron and Peter Coffey.

As her dissertation research, Nikkola developed biodegradable polymer nanofibres and composite materials that release anti-inflammatory drugs to the human body. These materials can be employed, for example, to treat diseases that require the use of multiple drugs. They can also be used to repair tissue, in which case the implant acts both as a drug-release device and as a cell scaffold.

New biomaterials help control drug dosage and delivery

Controlled drug release can be applied to the treatment of numerous diseases and medical conditions. It offers several advantages over conventional drug delivery methods. For example, it limits the spread of drugs throughout the body and reduces side effects on patients.

"An added benefit is that patients do not have to remember to take their medications at certain times of day, because the material releases the drugs in a predesigned manner," says Nikkola.

One of the challenging aspects of using biodegradable polymers as selective drug carriers is the regulation of drug delivery rates. The biomaterials developed by Nikkola help control drug dosage and delivery. Multiple drugs can also be released simultaneously to the damaged tissue. In addition, biomaterials can be used to stimulate the growth of tissue with the help of a nanofibrous scaffold.

Nikkola's dissertation was publicly examined at TUT in October.

  Text and photo: Marjut Kemiläinen

 

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