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You are here: MEDICA Portal. Our Topics in 2009. Topic of the Month November: MEDICA 2009. Materials.

Fabrics in the Belly

Fabrics in the Belly

Photo: Surface structure of a textile

Paris, London, New York – the catwalks and top designer present brand new collections with the special help of precious fabrics. Also in medicine a longing for such textiles exists - due to their outstanding properties. „Textile fibres are similar to human tissue, a property that makes it compatible for the use inside the body“, Michael Doser of the Institute for textile and process engineering (ITV) Denkendorf, says. The institute is the biggest and oldest research centre for textiles in Germany.

Doctors, for example, use surgical nets during operations in order to stabilize hurt tissue as happens for the treatment of a splenic rupture. The surgeon puts the net firmly around the organ and clamps it together at its edges. That way the fabric supports the spleen similar to a corset. This procedure is favourable since the textiles are biocompatible - not eliciting hypersensitivity - and therefore can stay inside the body.

Everything depends upon the structure

In terms of compatibility for the human body, it is not important whether the textiles are made up of natural or artificial fibres. „Stents made up of polyester have already long been used successfully for substituting big blood vessels“, Doser says. Anyway, one property is more important than the material: The structure of the textiles determines how elastic the fabrics are which in turn determines what they are used for.

By definition, a textile material is a material made up of single fibers. However, the structure depends upon how the fibres are being interconnected by special processes such as knitting or weaving. Surgical nets, for example are knitted fabrics which means that the fabrics are more or less elastic - giving perfect support for a soft, damaged organ.

photo: stent made up of polyester
A stent made up of polyester; © ITV Denkendorf

Nerve splints are in charge of where to grow

Textiles are also useful in regenerative medicine: “When people cut themselves badly, for example with a circular saw, bones, muscles and sinews are being cut, but also nerves”, Doser explains. The greatest problem: Especially nerves do not regrow spontaneously, nerve ends are disoriented and will not reconnect without help. Textile splints may be able to give the support needed for regrowth by being pushed over the nerve ends like a little tube giving the cells the right direction to find each other.

ITV researchers are engaged in developing such splints and they seem to have developed a promising bioresorbable splint with new polymers which do not cause inflammations in the body, a problem often encountered with conventional splints. A further advantage is its flexibility: The textile splint as soft as a nerve fibre, but still strong enough to be sewn to the nerve ends.

High-tech baby clothing

Textile innovations do not only enthuse people concerned with the inner parts of the body - it still is an important part of medical clothing termed smart textiles. „Small sensors are being incorporated into clothing thanks to microsystems technology“, Doser explains. ITV researchers, for example, have developed baby clothing that automatically measures temperature, heart beat and the baby's breathing without the small child noticing anything. The prototypes existing so far pass on data through a small cable which can be used for monitoring in the hospital. The next goal is to enable data being passed via wireless connections. These textiles may one day help to prevent sudden infant death. Still, several hundred babies die each year of this complication.

Simone Heimann

Michael Doser speaks during the special show MEDICA VISION about „40 years of textile technology in medicine“ (in German). Wednesday, 18 November at 12:15, hall 3, booth H 92.


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