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News

Biodegradable polymers in medical applications

Rapra Technology Limited : 27 March, 2006  (New Product)
Rapra Technology, Europe's leading polymer research and test house, has secured 1.4 Million Euros of EU funding and assembled a consortium that will develop highly innovative supercritical fluid processing technology in order to make advanced multifunctional biodegradable polymer devices.
Rapra Technology, Europe's leading polymer research and test house, has secured 1.4 Million Euros of EU funding and assembled a consortium that will develop highly innovative supercritical fluid processing technology in order to make advanced multifunctional biodegradable polymer devices.

Desk research and other preliminary work has already begun on the new research project which is known by the acronym PROTEC. Rapra Technology Project Leader, Emyr Peregrine, says that 'these polymer-based medical devices are, most typically, made of materials that are able to dissolve and be absorbed into the human body. There are a whole host of examples in the medical and dental fields but general types of product include biodegradable plastics screws and rods for pinning and repairing ligaments; devices for internal drug deposition; orthopaedic mouldings; wound sutures and staples; cardiovascular and intestinal supports; polymer tissues, sponges and mouldings.'

The polymers involved in many of these medical devices - leading groupings include PGA, PLA, Caprolactone, P-dioxanone - are typically specialist, expensive and therefore will benefit from gas or fluid assisted processing at lower temperatures. 'Part of our project will involved mapping out which of these polymers will benefit most from assisted processing in this way,' says Peregrine. 'We are certainly open to working with companies with solutions in these areas.'

Peregrine notest that 'super critical carbon dioxide has a unique set of properties, having the diffusivity of a gas but the solvating power of a liquid. When injected into the polymer melt these features manifest themselves by lowering the polymer melt viscosity.This can facilitate a reduction in melt processing temperature which in turn can lead to improved material stability, improved flow properties and an enhancement in process economics. These benefits are very much in line with the requirements of biodegradable polymers and will be explored fully by the Protec project.'
Biomaterials account for nearly 60% of the expanding European medical device market which is valued at 55billion Euros per annum. The new Rapra-led project is being funded by the European Commission under its sixth framework, Specific Targeted Research Project scheme and is well aligned with the aims of developing sustainable, high technology, knowledge based manufacturing within the region.

A team of companies and research partners from the Protec consortium - spread across the EU, recently met at the Rapra site in Shawbury in order to map out the plan of activity for the three year project. These companies and the EU will commit a total of 2.23 million Euros to the project. In addition to Rapra, the partners include UK contract medical moulder Arena ZME Ltd.; Trexel GmbH, the German based supplier of the MuCell Process, super critical fluid processing technology; and SE Carburos Metalicos SA., the Spanish based subsidiary of Air Products. The Consortium is completed by research groups based at three European universities; The University of Birmingham in the UK, The Technical University of Lodz, Poland, and The University of Twente, the Netherlands.

The main goals of the Protec project are to:

Produce porous biodegradable polymers that will demonstrate significant weight reduction, but which still retain the physical and mechanical properties of the compact material.

Reduce degradation associated with the processing of thermally and shear sensitive polymers, but at the same time eliminate porosity induced foaming.
Establish the fundamental relationship between injection moulding variables and material property.

Effect control over the biodegradation profile of the materials.
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