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University of Washington has engineered biomaterial that could improve success of medical implants

These images show differences in collagen build-up in two tissue samples. Collagen is labeled in blue. The left image shows a thick collagen wall forming in the presence of a material that’s widely used for implantable devices. In contrast, collagen in the right image is more evenly dispersed in the tissue after the UW-engineered hydrogel has been implanted.

It’s a familiar scenario – a patient receives a medical implant and days later, the body attacks the artificial valve or device, causing complications to an already compromised system.

Expensive, state-of-the-art medical devices and surgeries often are thwarted by the body’s natural response to attack something in the tissue that appears foreign. Now, University of Washington engineers have demonstrated in mice a way to prevent this sort of response. Their findings were published online this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The UW researchers created a synthetic substance that fully resists the body’s natural attack response to foreign objects. Medical devices such as artificial heart valves, prostheses and breast implants could be coated with this polymer to prevent the body from rejecting an implanted object.

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