Nanoscale Technology Applied to Bioresorbable Polymers

A two year collaboration between the Department of Mechanical Engineering (F. Prinz), the Department of Orthopedic Surgery (R.L. Smith), and the Department of Surgery (R.S. Greco), has resulted in new custom-engineered biomaterials for clinical use. The unifying hypothesis of this work is that micro/nanofabrication techniques developed for silicon micro-electronics can be modified to create three-dimensional matrices of bioresorbable polymers. These biocompatible biomaterials can be manufactured with features conducive to drug delivery, infection-resistant biological dressings and surgical implants, local and regional chemotherapy and ultimately bioreactors to replace diseased and damaged organs. Utilizing the expertise of the Stanford Rapid Prototyping Facility, research associates and graduate students have overcome huge challenges and successfully engineered a group of bioresorbable polymeric biomaterials with features that possess channels, grooves and through-holes, clinically important characteristics of implantable biomaterial surfaces. Recently the second challenge of bonding these surfaces together to form a three-dimensional matrix has been achieved. Finally, within the last month, the incorporation of a drug into the matrix has been performed successfully. These accomplishments create an environment in which it will be possible to develop infection-resistant surfaces that can be used to enhance wound healing, treat skin ulcers and decubiti, develop infection-resistant implantable devices such as vascular grafts, and develop artificial tendons and cartilage. These biomaterials can also be utilized to incorporate chemotherapeutic agents which may treat skin cancer without the need for expensive surgical procedures as well as deliver adjuvant chemotherapy locally in cases of breast cancer and a variety of cancers that affect intraabdominal organs. The intellectual property for this endeavor resides at Stanford and the promising early results have been funded by the Johnson & Johnson family of companies. Longer term goals include the development of an artificial liver, improved hemodialysis and ultimately a bioreactor to treat diabetes.