Engineered Biomaterials and Tissue Systems
The world has changed significantly since wood was the primary material for everything from false teeth to artificial limbs. In the last one hundred years, plastics and ceramics emerged as the materials of choice for biomedical applications and provided a vast improvement to the quality of life. Yet, it is just in the last decade that even more profound changes, through research in biomaterials and tissue engineering, have begun to revolutionize medical materials and offer opportunities for replacement and repair on a level once only dreamed of in fiction.
Biomaterials are materials that are compatible with biological systems. Research focuses on a wide range of natural and synthetic components that might be used to design novel devices to replace diseased or damaged tissues or create artificial joints. A good example are nano-structured artificial materials that can be used to replace portions of the human bladder.
In contrast, Tissue Engineering uses fundamental studies of the properties of tissues to investigate techniques to provide replacement tissues and/or the construction of scaffolds that can allow the body to heal itself. A prime example of this would be the use of naturally-derived extracellular matrix to provide a rejection-resistant scaffold that the body can use to form its own replacement tissue.
Research at the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering covers all facets of this exciting area. From advanced studies on and manipulation of the extracellular matrix, to the development of advanced artificial biomaterials, researchers and students are finding new ways to replace, repair, or regenerate tissues lost or damaged from injury or disease.