Biopolymers in Biomedical Applications

Polymers have become a necessary commodity of everyday life and are used for manufacturing of hundreds of things of our daily use from house hold items to transportation and communication. Polymers are also used in medicine; however, all the polymers cannot be used for this purpose. For medical applications, a polymer should have the following properties: (a) bio-safe and non-toxic which means that it should be non-carcinogenic, non-teratogenic, non-mutagenic, non-cytotoxic, non-pyrogenic, nonhemolytic, non-allergenic and chronically non-inflammative etc. (b) must be effective in terms of functionality, durability, and performance (c) must be interfacial, mechanically and biologically biocompatible and (d) sterilizable through different techniques like autoclave, dry heating, electron beam irradiation etc. It should also be chemically inert and very stable i.e. it should not decay or disintegrate to give obnoxious toxic products with the passage of time especially when it is intended to be implanted within body. The selection of a polymer for a particular medical application is also made upon the basis of its host response. Therefore a biopolymer is any polymeric non-viable material which is used in medical devices or applications that where it is intended to interact with biological systems such as tissues, cells, bones, blood and any other living substance.

Biopolymers used in manufacture of medical devices which are used to replace or repair some diseased, damaged or non-functional piece of tissue or bone like replacement of joints, heart valves, arteries, teeth, tendons, ligaments, ocular lenses etc. More advanced devices are used to partially or entirely replace or assist in functioning of a vital organ like lung, kidney, liver, heart etc. Furthermore, biocompatible and degradable polymers are used to prepare advanced and efficient drug delivery systems. Drugs (like pilocarpine, contraceptives, insulin etc.) are encapsulated within polymeric microcapsules for their controlled and sustained release or targeted delivery of drugs (like delivery of an anticancer drug only to the tumor).

 

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