Coating Inhibits Immune System Attacks on Implants

Photo by Jeff Comber.


Photo by Jeff Comber.

Implants can save smiles, but they also can trigger attacks by the body’s immune system. When drugs can’t control this inflammatory response, the implants fail. A postdoctoral fellow with the University of Toronto’s faculty of dentistry, though, has developed a polymer that prevents the immune system from responding to the implant in the first place.

Kyle Battiston, PhD, began by designing an anti-inflammatory polymer that could be used as a tissue engineering scaffold that lets engineers grow cells into desired shapes. Since fragile cells can react poorly to non-native cellular environments, potentially causing new tissues to fail, the scaffold increases the odds for successfully growing tissue.

Battiston and his team then altered the biomaterial’s chemistry, which is made from a family of polymers that reduce inflammation when they interact with white blood cells, so they could coat medical devices such as implants with it. The coating calms the body’s immune response, eliminating the risk of implant failure and the need for anti-inflammatory drugs. It also is versatile.

“We’ve learned this family of materials can retain its anti-inflammatory character while adapting diverse physical properties,” said Battiston. As a result, Battiston expects to be able to adapt the material to a wide variety of specific medical uses. He plans to roll out the product, which may be market-ready in the next 5 years, through a startup company called KSP2.

“The first application will be targeted to peripheral nerve stimulation, but we’re working on a dental application at the same time,” said Battiston.

“This has turned into a niche technology opportunity that is resonating with more than 6 groups with diverse end applications that Kyle and his company KSP2 are now talking to,” said Paul Santerre, PhD, Battiston’s supervisor and a professor with the university’s Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering.

“If you want to make in impact in healthcare, you can’t just do research. If you really want to accelerate and bring that technology to market, you have to be involved in that process,” said Battiston. “That’s a big part of Dr. Santerre’s vision of what students should do.”

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