The complexities that make each of us unique could result in medications, surgeries or health care devices that treat only the symptoms but not the specific causes.
At CU Boulder, engineers are inventing novel biomaterials able to decrease pain and extend life when the body gets out of kilter. And they’re doing it in such a way that can be tailored to each individual’s needs, thus eliminating the guesswork from diagnosis and treatment.
A relatively new area of study, biomaterials are making an impact on people’s lives. They include implanted materials and devices, such as a knee or hip replacements, or artificial lenses that clear the vision of cataract patients.
In the future, researchers will combine expertise from numerous fields to bridge the possibilities of precision biomaterials with the needs of millions of people around the world, said Professor Kristi Anseth of chemical and biological engineering, who’s leading this research effort.
When I think about where engineers can have impact, we all look at how we can impact quality of life. At a fundamental level, we’re motivated in our research theme by a desire to improve people’s health.” –Kristi Anseth
During the past 20 years, Anseth and colleagues have advanced the development of hydrogels, Jell-O-like substances packed with stem cells engineered to morph into the desired cell type—bone, cartilage or skin, for example.
“What we’re trying to do is design the next generation of biomaterials that can play that role when our bodies fail us,” Anseth said.
In the lab of Professor Bob McLeod, director of CU’s Materials Science and Engineering Program and a specialist in optical fabrication, researchers invented a new type of 3D printer that can print tiny scaffolds that provide stability for the hydrogels as they grow into living tissue. The potential impacts of these biomaterials are many: regenerating skin for burn victims, blood vessels for heart bypass candidates or cartilage for worn-out knees.