Clinical Need for Bioresorbable Medical Implants

Bioabsorbable materials are a category of biomaterial that gradually degrade when implanted in a biological environment. They have the potential to form the basis for the next-generation of vascular and orthopaedic medical implants as they can reduce the need for revision surgeries [1] and avoid biocompatibility issues associated with conventional permanent implants [2].

Cardiovascular Implant Applications

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of mortality worldwide, accounting for over 4 million deaths per year and almost half of all deaths in Europe[1]. Permanent metallic stents have now established themselves as the gold-standard in treating arterial blockages, with over 1.3 million stent procedures carried out across Europe in coronary vessels alone4. However, it is estimated that over 50,000 of these permanent stent implants fail annually due to complications caused by late-stent thrombosis, prevention of adaptive remodelling and hindrance of surgical revascularisation[2]. Crucially, as the critical vessel healing period is only 3-6 months post-implantation, the development of a suitable bioabsorbable stent could directly address these issues, by supporting the vessel during the healing period and subsequently being absorbed into the bloodstream once its functional role is completed.

Orthopaedic Implant Applications

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The removal of fixed-metallic implants is the most common elective orthopaedic procedure in industrial countries[1], accounting for approximately 5% of all orthopaedic surgeries[2] and contributing to an estimated annual cost of over €1.6 billion across the EU[3]. Bioabsorbable-based implants could eliminate the vast majority of these revision surgeries, while also reducing additional trauma and recovery time to the patient[4]. Several major industry players, including Smith & Nephew and DePuy Synthes have already developed polymer-based bioabsorbable implants that have achieved clinical success in applications where loading is relatively small, in the case of soft-tissue reattachment for example[5]. However, the widespread implementation of polymer-based bioabsorbables in orthopaedic applications remains limited by their poor mechanical properties, with clinical failures arising in more demanding load-bearing applications

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