Technologies of Tomorrow

Photo: Katrin Sternberg

Examples of the interdisciplinary work of REMEDIS are micro-stents for implantation in eye and ear. Glaucoma stents can reduce intraocular pressure, if medication and surgeries have no effect. In case of chronic middle ear inflammation, an auditory tube stent can aerate the middle ear.

These implants represent a special challenge because of their size and location, as Professor Katrin Sternberg from the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, University of Rostock, explained prior to the event: “In order to prevent clogging and rejection of these tiny systems, we are researching micro-structured, bio-functionalized surfaces. This will ensure the implant’s optimal functionality.”

An important part of research is done in the area “Cross-Sectional Projects”. At the methodical interface of medicine, pharmaceutics and technology, scientists develop implant-specific pharmacological approaches to influence target cellular structures. According to Sternberg, this is a way to “answer the questions of how active agent combinations from drug-eluting multi-mode-stents effect cells in blood vessel walls and which polymeric stent materials are most compatible with cells.” Furthermore, REMEDIS establishes process technologies to coat micro-implants.

The Federal Ministry for Education and Research supports REMEDIS with the sum of 14 million Euros for five years. The Institute for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rostock coordinates the work of national and international universities and industry partners.

For this time, REMEDIS is absolutely focused on the future of implant technology: “To us, this means the development of micro-implants for new medical issues as well as the optimization of tissue-implant-interaction to minimize implant failure and to increase the implant’s long-term stability through a targeted, cell-specific functionalization of the implant surface,” says Sternberg.

 
 

The seminar “Active medical implants” at MEDICA CONGRESS has addressed the progress of implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. An important new development is the protection of those cardiologic implants during MRI-examinations. Professor Artur Lichtenberg from Düsseldorf University Hospital explained this prior to the seminar: “The risks during MRI-examinations stem from static magnetic fields on the one hand and fast oscillating magnetic fields on the other hand, as well as from high-frequency radiation.”

Radiation can heat up probes of conventional implants through induction, thus causing injuries of the surrounding tissue. Electromagnetic interferences can disrupt the implants’ functions directly. MRI-compatible cardiologic implants are shielded against these effects and also have less ferromagnetic components than conventional implants. According to Lichtenberg, the new implants allow for a safe MRI-examination. However, it is absolutely necessary to check them before and afterwards.

As Lichtenberg states, the costs are still high. Because of this, implantation “should be limited to patients who will likely need MRI-examination, for example those with cardiological or neurological diseases.” But he expects MRI-compatible systems to become more and more important, because roughly one half of patients with pacemakers have to undergo MRI-examination later in life. But as for today, he cannot recommend the routine exchange of conventional systems that are already implanted. The procedure is risky and in most cases, diagnostic information can also be obtained without computer tomography.

Timo Roth
COMPAMED.de