28 Jun Andaltec has developed a material which can potentially regenerate muscle tissues based on polymers with shape memory properties and graphene derivatives
Andaltec Technological Centre has developed a series of advanced polymers with shape memory properties for biomedical applications employing 3D printing technology. This material presents great potential to regenerate muscle tissues. This is one of the major results stemming from the PoliM3D R&D project, in which researchers have been working since 2019 to develop and characterise new polymeric materials easy to process by means of FDM printing technology. These materials also have suitable properties to be employed in the manufacture of implants, prostheses and surgical tools customised for each patient. This initiative is funded by the R&D scheme directed to private entities of the department for Economy, Business and University of the Andalusian government.
These new polymers are based on shape memory property polymers, being capable of integrating themselves in the organism with a defined geometry and also of adapting to their environment when thermally activated. Furthermore, in cooperation with Manuel Melguizo’s Research Group at University of Jaén, the new developed materials have been functionalised with chemically-modified graphene derivatives. This process’ purpose was to improve the properties of the plastic matrix, as well as adherence and cell growth.
Researchers at Andaltec have identified the polymer’s optimal formulation, and have performed mechanical and physical-chemical tests in the technological centre’s labs. Subsequently, the materials have been biologically validated by professor Amelia Aránega’s Research Group at University of Jaén. Therefore, this innovative polymer was tested on myoblast cell lines by Aránega’s Research Group.
“Testing has proved that the polymer is biocompatible with this type of cells. It has also confirmed that cell growth and adherence occurs, Besides, we have compared the behaviour of the new material being non-additivated and graphene-additivated, which led to the discovery that cells contract and expand without an external stimulus, thanks to the presence of graphene derivatives. This fact confirms that this polymer could help in 3D tissue regeneration, counting with a clear application in regenerative medicine. All in all, we are conducting a new testing campaign in order to better understand the material behaviour and its possible healthcare uses”, as stated by Antonio Peñas, Head of the PoliM3D project together with researcher María Dolores Ramírez.
In a parallel effort, Andaltec technicians have developed 3D printing filaments, and have also optimised the additive manufacturing process so that prostheses and implants can be manufactured fast and safely. Antonio Peñas highlights that additive manufacturing and the use of polymers with shape memory properties open up several possibilities in order to offer more affordable and efficient medical treatments, above all if the manufacturing process is carried out in the hospital itself by specialised personnel. He also states that the use of 3D printing in the health sector allows for a reduction in both cost and time needed to start treatments, which implies better conditions for patients and a more rational use of the limited resources available for health systems.
Andaltec is not only capable of creating the new materials and devices but also cooperating with the hospitals in order to train the technicians in charge of manufacturing these elements on-site. The Technological Centre for Plastics benefits from a broad experience in additive manufacture, since it counts with a 3D printing centre within its Prototyping area. It also offers other services, such as 3D printing material development or production of short series and special parts.