Polymer Solutions Incorporated‘s founder and CEO, James Rancourt, is quoted in an article in the March issue of Medical Product Outsourcing (MPO)Â magazine. The featureÂ article, “Materials by Nature“, is written by MPO managing editor Michael Barbella, who explores the lessons that scientists and engineers draw from nature to create new materials that will help to develop smaller and more durable medical devices.
Barbella describes the challenges of using synthetic polymers, like polyethylene, in medical devices, which can be as diverse as joint replacements and cardiovascular implants. When the devices are inserted into patients, the polymers in the devices have to blend into the background and not spark an immune response, which could be fatal in a patient.
At the same time, the polymers alsoÂ have to meet certain standards in performance and properties to be useful for manufacturing medical devices. All of these demands makes the art and craft of designing polymers for medical devices complicated.
Rancourt explains the challenges in the article:
â€œModern medical materials have become very complex. A lot of the materials being used now for medical products are part of a system,â€ said James Rancourt, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Polymer Solutions Incorporated, an independent polymer testing laboratory based in Blacksburg, Va. â€œThe material itself is important but the structure of the material is also very important. In the earlier days the structure could be something such as a polymer that was part crystalline with the crystalline regions giving the plastic high strength, low compression, resistance to deformity and making it optically opaque. Now itâ€™s more complicated than that.
â€œWith forms like polyester fabrics used for surgeries, you get into issues of what the fiber is made out of molecularly, whether the filaments that make up the fabric are going to be single fibers and whether the yarns are going to be made up of tiny individual little filaments,â€ Rancourt continued. â€œAlso, if these yarns are made up of the tiny filaments, what will the filament size be, how many filaments will there be per yarn and what will the weave structure be? All the while the material has to handle the manufacturing, it has to handle the sterilization, the packaging, the transportation, the storage prior to use and be accepted by the medical community that has to implement the product. Every single step is highly engineered. If any links along that chain fails, then the material potentially is not going to do what it was supposed to do.â€
Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.