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Study to Develop Ways to Eliminate Reactions to Medical Implants

October 8, 2008

Many medical implants have to be removed, not due to any functional problems but because the body’s responses to foreign materials causes excessive inflammation and protective tissue buildup. To overcome these problems, a team of University of Texas at Arlington researchers is developing investigative tools and methods to prevent biomaterial-induced reactions.

Funded by a four-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Bioengineering Professor Liping Tang and his associates, Dr. Jean Gao of Computer Science & Engineering and Dr. Jianzhong Su of Mathematics, will use laboratory tests and computer and mathematical simulations to study individual critical cellular responses and then whole foreign body reactions.

“White blood cells recognize an implanted object as a clot,” said Dr. Tang. “They cling to the surface, attempting to dissolve it. Because they are unable to do this, they isolate the ‘clot’ by producing a fibrotic capsule or ‘scar tissue’ to cover the implant. This interferes with the proper function of the implant and often causes life-threatening inflammation.”

To create biomaterials that produce desired tissue responses, it is important to improve current understanding of the causes of biomaterial-mediated fibrotic reactions. Based on information gained from previous investigations, Dr. Tang and his associates concluded that biomaterial-mediated fibrotic reactions are a continuous process. This process consists of a chain reaction involving various types of proteins triggering the formation of fibrin clots and fibrotic tissue on implant surfaces.

In this study, Dr. Tang will assess the potential influence of various antagonists and inhibitors on modifying those critical responses and final fibrotic tissue formations. Drs. Gao and Su will then create for the first time mathematical models to simulate the complex processes governing biomaterial-mediated fibrotic responses. Observational approaches have been used to investigate the individual steps of the cascade response; the computational and mathematical modeling will simulate and quantify the already-observed biological phenomena and provide predications of unknown or yet-to-be explored biological possibilities and propel insight into foreign body responses.

Special emphasis will be paid to the potential roles and interactions between different biomaterials, proteins and cells and those vital cellular responses in promoting foreign body reactions.

The comprehensive and systematic information gained from this work will help to develop novel pharmacological and engineering strategies for designing biomaterials with the desired tissue compatibility and safety.

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