Plant Fibers Like Jute, Flax and Hemp in Medical Science

blog2-1 Plant-based fibers such as flax, jute, and hemp are being used to engineer medical use bio-composites. The National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference defines biomaterials as a natural or manufactured material that can be used for any interval of time to treat, enhance or replace a tissue, organ, or function of the body. They are used in implants and medical devices and must be compatible to interact with biological systems without rejection. As complicated as it sounds, humans have been doing this throughout history.

Egyptian mummies used artificial teeth, eyes, noses, and ears. The Chinese and Indian people have been using glues, waxes, and tissues to repair and regenerate wounds in traumatized patients. In North America, we’ve used casting materials made of woven natural fibers for splints, casts, and braces to fix bones and used gauze dressings to stop bleeding. We learned that plant cellulose stimulates wound healing.

Over the centuries, we have improved our synthetic materials, surgical techniques, and sterilization methods to use biomaterials that are non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, and mechanically strong enough to withstand repeated use. They possess high strength, don’t corrode or fracture, and are renewable and sustainable.

Today, scientists and researchers find the environmental benefits and performance of natural fibers very attractive for drug delivery, tissue production, orthopedics, and cosmetic dentistry. New biomaterials are easily accepted by the human body as a framework while waiting for regeneration of tissue and organs. Plant fibers will replace glass and carbon fibers that are less biodegradable and are non-renewable.

Polymer composites using a combination of natural and synthetic resin can also increase the durability. Natural fibers are bonded by polymer agents obtained by natural resources like polylactic acid (PLA). By combining fibers like hemp, flax, jute, wood, or various leaves and grasses with polymer from renewable sources, orthopedics, and limb prosthetics have greatly improved and at a lesser cost for materials.

blog2-2Bio-composites are used for hard tissue applications like prosthetic sockets, dental posts, bone plate, orthodontic brackets, hip replacement, screws, and pins. In medical nanotechnology, nanocomposites are small enough to be used for blood bags, cardiac devices, and heart valves. Patients have faster bone healing, no risk of pathogen transfer, faster and cheaper surgery, and less pain. By controlling the composition of materials and adjusting flexibility and strength, implants can be customized to suit the patient and avoid rejection.

As the popularity of using materials and products that are sustainable, ecologically sound and efficient, and incorporate green chemistry increases, bio-composites may be the next generation of products that mimic living tissues like bone, cartilage, and skin.

Biomaterials will reduce our dependency on costly petroleum products, carbon dioxide emissions, and create economic opportunities to improve our environment by slowing energy consumption when used for insulation and sound absorption in manufacturing processes too. Plant fibers and products made from them –  burlap sacks to high-tech geotextiles and more – are low cost, lightweight, eco-friendly, renewable, and durable.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 at 10:29 am and is filed under All Natural, Jute, Plant Fiber.

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