From biting ant sutures to replacement brain tissue: A history of biomaterials

TED Blog

Biomaterials are substances — synthetic or natural — that can be used to improve health, minimize suffering and improve or correct the way the body works. A suture? That’s a biomaterial. The pacemaker? Indeed. Contact lenses? Yeah, you get the idea. As technology and science have advanced, so too have the sophistication of such biomaterials and the ways that they are used. As you’ll hear in today’s talk, “A new way to grow bone,” scientists can now even use saline to create a small pocket in a person’s leg so that stem cells there grow into new bone. Another recent biomaterial advance: a lab-grown miniature brain.

The field of biomaterials didn’t get its name until the 1960s, but the concept of using materials strategically in the body has been around for a long time. We spoke to Buddy Ratner, who directs the Research Center for Biomaterials at…

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