Polymers are ubiquitous in medicine and expand to all aspects of health care.
Research focuses on the development of novel polymer therapeutic concepts. Responsive dendritic systems and nanogels are used as smart polymeric systems for the improvement of the therapeutic index of drugs. Areas of research are: (1) multifunctional polymer-drug conjugates, (2) self-assembling polymers for the controlled delivery of bioactives, (3) new diagnostic technologies as theranostic approaches, and (4) environment-responsive hydrogels.
The evaluation of the functionality of newly developed (bio)polymers, medical devices and drug delivery systems requires of the development of cellular models that recapitulate the native niche and tissue microenvironment. Research is focused on the development of (i) cellular models to evaluate the potential of fabricated scaffolds to regenerate tissues with stem and primary cells; (ii) realistic 3D co-culture models via bioprinting and microfluidic technologies that encompass cells from the targeted tissues and cells representative of the immune system; (iii) 2D models recapitulating the disease microenvironment (e.g., oxidative stress, inflammation); (iv) and models of the epithelial system to evaluate the potential for topical drug delivery.
Polymers for Biomedical Applications
Research is focused on polyester (co)polymers based on polylactides and polylactones. Mechanical properties and biodegradation rates are tuneable with copolymer composition and suitable for different biomedical implants and scaffolds for tissue engineering. Hard tissue (bone) and specific soft tissue regeneration (nervous system, urological, cartilage) is targeted with polymers that present behaviors from glassy-stiff to elastomeric. Biofabrication technologies such as additive manufacturing (3D printing, stereolithography and bioprinting) are also exploited for the production of smart, stimuli responsive scaffolds that are later evaluated for their tissue regenerative potential with different cell cultures.
Biodegradable (co)polyester hybrids including drugs and antibiotic biomolecules for specific controlled delivery are under study as well as radiopaque composites containing BaSO4 and/or other specific inorganic nanofillers.
Nanocapsules and nanoparticle systems in which specific biomolecules (antibodies, proteins, antimicrobials) are also subject of use for specific therapeutic applications.
Polymers for Bioelectronics
The emerging area of bioelectronics which merges biology and electronics is leading to a new generation of implantable/wearable medical devices, such as electrodes for electrophysiology, conducting scaffolds for tissue engineering, biosensors or e-skins. New soft materials with ionic and electronic conductivity are being developed such as PEDOTs, biocompatible iongels and mixed-ionic electronic conductive polymers.
Detection of airborne and waterborne targets such as microcontaminants, bacteria, viruses and biomarkers is investigated by creating selective and specific sensor surfaces based on functional oligonucleic acids.