Uses for bioactive glasses within the medical industry
by Steven Jung PhD, Chief Technology Officer at Mo-Sci Corporation
There are several types of ceramics and glass used in the production of medical devices and personal health products, ranging from relatively inert materials like alumina and silicon nitride to degradable and bioactive glasses. Bioactive glass is a special type of synthetic material that has been proved to aid the healing of hard and soft tissues, exhibit antimicrobial and antifungal properties, stimulate angiogenesis (increase vasculature), and enhance hemostasis (blood clotting). A single material that combines several of these beneficial properties is unique and this is why bioactive glass is a candidate for so many medical products.
Bioactive glasses are materials with low chemical durability, so they work by chemically degrading in the body fluids and releasing their ionic constituents to the surrounding tissues. These ions serve multiple therapeutic functions at the implant site. The one most recognized is the deposition of a scaffold mineral known as hydroxyapatite, the same calcium phosphate mineral found in human bone. Another is to stimulate the surrounding biological environment to recruit stem cells to the adjacent tissues to promote tissue regeneration. Other benefits include antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory responses that aid in optimizing the healing environment.
In the past couple of decades, bioactive glass as a material family has seen significant diversification in applications ranging from personal care products like toothpaste to surgical products for bone grafting and wound care. Due to the applications of these materials in healthcare products, chemical purity is critical. High-purity raw materials are mixed and melted in precious metal vessels like platinum at temperatures ranging from 1,000oC to 1,500oC. These bioactive glass materials may be used in a granular, spherical or fiber form, or they are additionally processed to make 3D scaffolds with engineered porosity for tissue infiltration.
Composites containing bioactive glass are becoming widely used, especially in bone and dental grafting, as glass components are added to pliable carriers such as collagen or perhaps a degradable polymer or organic putty for improved clinical handling. While new bioactive glass compositions are always under development, new processing methods are as well. 3D printing, composites and other advanced processing techniques are improving the ways in which physicians use bioactive glass and are allowing the glass to be used in new ways not previously possible. The future is bright for bioactive glass as it fills a niche for improving the body’s ability to heal while serving to increase the longevity of our natural organs and tissues.
Mo-Sci Corporation will exhibit at Ceramics Expo 2018 on Booth 218.