Tissue adhesion is a complication which occurs after some 50% to 95% of surgical procedures. Basically, tissue from one organ grows into that of another. Bands of connective scar tissue may form in places which could pose a risk to the patient’s health. The problem is particularly common following operations within the abdominal cavity. It can cause serious adverse health effects including chronic pain, blockages of the digestive system and even infertility. The Biomaterials research group (Biomaterials Science and Technology; BST) at the MIRA Institute is led by Prof. Dirk Grijpma. It has developed the technology needed to produce a new type of membrane which can prevent tissue adhesion.
The concept is actually very simple. A thin, biodegradable synthetic membrane is placed over the area to be operated on. It forms a barrier between the different types of tissue and prevents them from growing into each other. The membrane gives the body time to recuperate naturally, and is then broken down and 'resorbed' into the bloodstream. A second operation to remove the membrane is therefore unnecessary.
Although similar membranes are already available, they have the disadvantage of losing their form and function too quickly as they are broken down. Medisse BV is a spin-off company of the MIRA Institute which is to market a new membrane made from the degradable polymer PTMC (polytrimethylene carbonate). The new product overcomes all the problems associated with its predecessors. The material is extremely flexible and can be easily cut to size by the surgeon. It dissolves very gradually, and maintains its form and function while doing so. It therefore continues to do its job until the very last moment, by which stage it is extremely thin indeed.
The Biomaterials Science and Technology department is developing new forms of medical implants which are designed to fit perfectly within the body and which will degrade at exactly the desired rate. One of the department's current research projects involves a porous biodegradable material that can actually replace vital body parts on a temporary basis. The material can be 'sown' with cells which promote the growth of new cells within the body as the carrier medium is gradually broken down.