Biomaterials, tissue engineering and biofabrication

Magnified image of fibres

Biomaterials play an integral role in medicine today - restoring function and facilitating healing for people after injury or disease. Biomaterials may be natural or synthetic and are used in medical applications to support, enhance, or replace damaged tissue or a biological function. The first historical use of biomaterials dates to antiquity, when ancient Egyptians used sutures made from animal sinew. The modern field of biomaterials combines medicine, biology, physics, and chemistry, and more recent influences from tissue engineering and materials science. The field has grown significantly in the past decade due to discoveries in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and more.

Metals, ceramics, plastic, glass, and even living cells and tissue all can be used in creating a biomaterial. They can be reengineered into molded or machined parts, coatings, fibers, films, foams, and fabrics for use in biomedical products and devices. These may include heart valves, hip joint replacements, dental implants, or contact lenses. They often are biodegradable, and some are bio-absorbable, meaning they are eliminated gradually from the body after fulfilling a function.

Biomaterials development at Swinburne covers a wide range of clinical issues such as wound healing, drug delivery, nerve and muscle repair. These research activities are supported by our strong research collaborations with medical clinicians and surgeons within large hospitals (St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and Alfred Hospital Melbourne) as well as medical research institutes (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Bionics Institute and Baker Institute).