Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing have devised a 3D printing glass medium made of amino acids that can be dissolved within the human body. This revolutionary material promises important applications in the healthcare sector and beyond.
amino acid glass
Traditional glass is a versatile material with numerous applications; however, it has certain drawbacks, such as fragility and incompatibility with the human body.
To overcome these limitations, the researchers have developed a unique glassware derived from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and peptides.
The manufacturing method for the glasses involved heating the chemically modified amino acids and peptides in an inert gas atmosphere until they reached their decomposition temperature. The resulting supercooled liquid was then cooled to produce the glass while preventing crystallization.
The team used this glass in casting and 3D printing methods to achieve the final shape of the pieces, using a commercial biological 3D printer with a temperature-controlled cylinder.
The new glass combines the best qualities of both glass and amino acids, resulting in a material that is strong, flexible and biocompatible, meaning it can be used for a variety of medical devices.
Amino acid glass can be used for multiple scenarios, such as the development of new drug delivery systems, which can gradually release drugs over time. This approach can improve the effectiveness of treatments and reduce side effects.
In addition, new bioresorbable implants made from amino acid glass can provide temporary structural support to the body while it heals, eventually dissolving to eliminate the need for additional surgeries to remove the implant.
In the tissue engineering domain, glass amino acid scaffolds can support cell growth, allowing for the creation of functional tissue for regenerative medicine applications.
Another example given in research is for wound healing. The biocompatible and soluble nature of amino acid glass makes it an ideal candidate for developing advanced wound dressings that promote healing and minimize the risk of infection.
Challenges and Future Research
Researchers have tested the degradation of different types of amino acid glass in simulated body fluids (specifically proteinase K solution, simulated gastric fluid (SGF[sp]), and simulated intestinal fluid (SIF[sp]), and soil, finding that one type dissolved in a week while another took several months. The reason for soil testing is to ensure that the glass can be disposed of in the compost, ensuring that the materials can be disposed of sustainably outside the body.
In another mouse experiment, the faster-degrading glass bead was fully absorbed within 12 days, causing temporary muscle breakdown, although it was shown to heal after time.
While the development of amino acid glass is a significant advance, more research is needed to optimize its properties and identify the most effective applications.
Challenges include improving the mechanical strength of the material, adjusting its dissolution rate, and exploring its compatibility with various cell types. Furthermore, long-term studies are required to ensure the safety and efficacy of the material in real-world medical applications.
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