Science & Technology

Diseased Organs to Be Substituted with Healthy Ones: Chinese Scientists Gear Up for Immortality

Chinese researchers have developed various innovative materials for medical implants. For instance, hexafluoropentane threads can be utilized to create “biotextiles” that are not only resilient but also self-charging through movement. New biomaterials offer significant improvements over the materials provided by nature.

Additionally, amino acids in the lab can be synthesized into a durable substance that is also beneficial for our bodies: glass.

Perpetual motion pacemaker

Engineers at Southeastern University have developed a material that is not only remarkably durable but also biodegradable.

Crucially, this implant can autonomously convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. This innovation by the Nanjing scientists could be utilized in the manufacture of devices such as pacemakers or drug delivery systems, like subcutaneous insulin pumps.

Pacemakers can indeed be implanted in a person. However, these implants, typically made of plastic or metal, are foreign to the body. Some implants must be surgically removed once they have served their purpose.

A Nanjing scientific team, headed by Professors Zhang Hanyue and Xiong Rengen, has addressed this issue: their biomaterial, based on hexafluoropentane, naturally decomposes over time.

The biomaterial resembles textiles, according to the scientists. This means that implants of any shape, from stents for vascular replacement to dental gingival threads, can be fashioned from it.

In a magazine article, the scientists note that the hexafluoropentane they developed combines seamlessly with polyvinyl alcohol, a common thickening agent. This combination allows for the creation of materials ranging from solid to liquid.

Significantly, leading state media in China have likened the medical hexafluoropentane invention to the Curie brothers’ discovery of the piezoelectric effect in 1880.

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“Bioglass” from amino acids

Chinese scientists are exploring alternative materials suitable for implantation in the human body. For instance, bioengineers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a “protein glass” synthesized from peptides and amino acids. This material is transparent, resembling conventional glass, and biodegrades within the body due to its organic composition.

The process involves heating the powder in an inert gas environment to temperatures above its melting point without reaching the decomposition threshold of the molecules. After cooling, water is introduced, causing the substance to crystallize.

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This “bioglass” is both flexible and strong, allowing it to be shaped into various forms or utilized in 3D printing. Consequently, it holds potential for creating medical implants, such as devices designed for precise drug delivery.

Moreover, this Chinese innovation has broader implications: researchers anticipate that “protein glass” could substitute traditional glass not only in medical applications but also across various industries.

Annually, the global industry generates nearly 40 million tons of glass. While glass is theoretically recyclable, in reality, less than one-third is actually recycled. The remainder is discarded in landfills, where it accumulates extensively due to its durability.

Scientists globally have been seeking methods to create eco-friendlier transparent materials, like wood. “Protein glass,” which decomposes naturally between 3 weeks to 7 months based on the amino acids and peptides composition, is a promising development. This innovation not only has the potential to heal people but also to protect the environment.

However, these are not the sole accomplishments of Chinese implantologists.

Titanium implant that repels bacteria

Not all biomaterials can substitute for titanium, commonly used in orthopedic implants and dentures. Titanium is favored for its lightness, strength, and excellent biocompatibility. However, its susceptibility to bacterial colonization is a notable drawback, aside from its cost. Infection risk accompanies implantation.

Doctors suggest irradiating titanium prostheses with ultraviolet lamps.

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Alternatively, scientists from the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems, the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, and City University propose applying a small electric current to the titanium prosthesis.

A collaborative effort by these three institutions revealed a simple principle: titanium can acquire antibacterial properties when subjected to an external electric current. This treatment preserves the material’s biocompatibility and strength.

Researcher Feng Hongqing notes that using electric current is more feasible in clinical settings than UV lamps, indicating that this Chinese innovation may soon be integrated into implantology practices.

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