Sunday, November 10, 2002

Biodegradable shape memory polymers

Shape memory alloys have been around for a while - you may have heard of nitinol.

Likewise polymers that can be absorbed by the body have been around for a while, for use in sutures.

But now we have shape memory polymers:
It sounds like an attraction from a circus sideshow: It can morph into virtually any shape, squeeze freely into tight spaces, and even pull a disappearing act. But the miraculous performer here is not a person. It is a novel type of plastic, technically a biodegradable shape-memory polymer, which could literally change the shape of tomorrow's medical instruments.

Materials with shape memory have been studied since the 1950s, and absorbable polymers that slowly dissolve inside the body have been approved for medical use since the 1960s. But now Robert Langer, a biomedical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his former postdoctoral student Andreas Lendlein, who now teaches at the University of Potsdam, Germany, and is the managing director of mnemoScience GmbH, have combined the two attributes into one material.
File this one away for future investment.

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