MedShape Solutions Inc., a Georgia Institute of Technology spin off, is looking into ways to capitalize on its patented polymers technology. The company believes that its polymers, that change shape on demand, can one day be utilized by orthopods in the OR:
MedShape’s shape-memory approach — which is patent-pending and expected to go into human trials soon–derives from the work of Ken Gall, a Georgia Tech associate professor…
“Most of the materials used in medicine are inactive, such as titanium, stainless steel, polyurethane, and acrylic — they cannot respond to anything,” said Gall, who has appointments in both the School of Materials Science and Engineering and the School of Mechanical Engineering. “By contrast, our materials are mechanically active — they respond to the human body by changing shape.”
One MedShape product application, called ShapeLoc™, has been designed for use in knee surgery. Currently, Gall explains, surgeons drill tunnels in bone and then anchor tendons into those tunnels with plastic or metal screw threads that often intrude into and injure tissue. By contrast, ShapeLocs’ shape-memory polymer fits into a surgical tunnel along with the tendon, conforming around the delicate tendon to hold it in place…
MedShape expects to soon market another product application called the DynaNail™ system, a shape-memory alloy designed to help patients with diabetes and other conditions who suffer from soft-tissue damage in their lower extremities, resulting in debilitating ankle pain.
Currently, doctors address this tissue-damage problem with a procedure called ankle fusion, Gall said. This approach has a fairly low success rate because titanium and stainless-steel surgical nails often fail to maintain compression during the healing process. The DynaNail device employs “pseudo elastic” properties that allow it to achieve compression until bone fusion and healing can take place, avoiding the need for additional surgery or possible amputation.
Company explains its technology:
Shape memory materials are active solids capable of controlled shape change or strain recovery in response to external stimuli. Shape memory materials may be alloys (metals) or polymers (plastics), such as NiTiNOL a shape memory alloy, or Memori™, a shape memory polymer developed by MedShape. Shape memory materials can be programmed to exhibit two distinct responses, shape memory or pseudoelasticity. Shape memory is a shape recovery upon exposure to heat or light, and it can be used to transition between two extreme shapes and/or to apply load when faced with external constraint. Pseudoelasticity is a shape recovery upon removal of external load or constraint, and it can be exploited to maintain/apply loads or to transition between two different shapes. Since shape memory materials can be pre-programmed to actively respond to specific external stimuli, without using complex mechanical mechanisms, they can be referred to as “smart” implants.