Dr. Ken Gall and colleagues at School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology are working on shape-memory polymers capable of changing shape and their total volume, during clinical procedures, such as “to open blocked arteries, probe neurons in the brain and engineer a tougher spine.”
From the press release by Georgia Tech:
Gall’s research group has designed a shape-memory polymer stent that can be compressed and fed through a tiny hole in the body into a blocked artery, just like a conventional stent. Then, the warmth of the body triggers the polymer’s expansion into its permanent shape, resulting in natural deployment without auxiliary devices. This work was published in the journal Biomaterials earlier this year.
For another project, Gall and graduate student David Safranski have been investigating how altering a polymer’s chemistry changes its properties, such as stretchiness. This project was funded by MedShape Solutions, an Atlanta company that Gall co-founded to develop medical devices primarily for use in minimally invasive surgery.
“You can tailor the polymer to moderate its strength, stiffness, stretchiness and expansion rate,” noted Gall.
The researchers found that by changing the chemistry of the polymer backbone to include special side groups, they could increase of the amount of strain the polymer could withstand before failing without sacrificing stiffness. This discovery enabled the creation of polymers that could stretch farther and also push harder during recovery.
Gall and graduate student Scott Kasprzak are exploring how these polymers might be used as a deployable neuronal probe, with funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the NIH…
Another project in Gall’s laboratory is examining the use of these polymers for the spine. Most spinal surgeries are currently not performed arthroscopically, so Gall sees benefits in using these shape-memory materials to enable minimally invasive spinal surgery.
With funding from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), Gall and graduate student Kathryn Smith are developing shape-memory polymers for the spine that are tough – meaning they stretch far and support a lot of weight like native spinal disks.
“This would improve the deliverability and life of artificial disks currently used in the spine. Essentially, we’re just trying to engineer tougher synthetic polymers that can be easily delivered,” explained Gall…