Ons 1 dec / År 39 / Nr 4 2021

The Department of Biomaterials, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Sahlgrenska Academy

The Department of Biomaterials, Institute of Clinical Sciences, University Gothenburg, is an unique interdisciplinary research and educational environment within the Sahlgrenska Academy. Its mission is to generate and provide new ideas, knowledge and educated individuals in the field of medical devices, thus contributing to an improved quality of life and a sustainable development in the field. Although belonging to the academic organization, the department is located in the BIOTECH house of the Sahlgrenska Science Park, along with the manifold, young and creative pharma, vaccin and medtech companies.

The roots of the environment trace back to P-I Brånemark´s academic work on osseointegration which revolutionized oral health care globally. The department has an internationally leading position in the field of tissue regeneration and integration of implants and prostheses in the human body. The research groups use both ”bottom-up” and applied approaches. Knowledge on the mechanisms for tissue regeneration and implant integration is not only curiosity-driven but provides essential input to the future selection of optimal material properties in order to enable long-term patient safety and benefit. Key assets to this development are advanced methods and skills within the microscopy, laboratory and staff of the Chalmers Materials and Electron Microscopy, the Sahlgrenska Academy Core facilities and the Department of Biomaterials. The national and international interdisciplinary projects with material science experts, clinicians and medtech industry provide valuable translational routes from idea to bedside and vice-versa.

Interactions between biomaterials and body
The research group of Thomsen is dedicated to the understanding of the interactions between the properties of biomaterials and the molecules, cells and tissues after insertion in the body. The scientific questions include: How do cells sense the implanted material surface properties in vivo? Which cellular pathways direct tissue regeneration and implant integration vs protracted inflammation and implant failure? How do different modes of cellular communication (e.g. chemokines, cytokines and extracellular vesicles) affect the sequential stages of the biological processes after implantation? On-going larger projects are supported by Vetenskapsrådet (VR), the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF), Vinnova and EU. They include studies on the mechanisms of osteoinduction by in vivo resorbable bioceramics and the biocompatibility of novel bioceramic+amino acid ”bone glue”.

Exploring the next generation of implants
Guided Bone Regeneration (GBR) is a surgical principle where a membrane (M) is surgically placed between the soft tissue (S) and jaw bone (B) to help the regeneration of lost bone (D) (shown schematically).

The original biological principle was discovered and explored in the late 1980’s at the Sahlgrenska Academy. GBR is used in approximately 40% of all implant surgeries performed globally, representing approximately 4 million GBR surgeries per year.

The research group at the Department of Biomaterials, led by Professor Christer Dahlin, continues to explore the next generation of membranes taking advantage of the unique environment with industry and some of the most respected implant centres in the world which are located in the Region Västra Götaland.

Understanding the structure-function relationship of the material-tissue interface
The research group of Associate Professor Anders Palmquist is focused on the understanding of the structure-function relationship at the interface between biomaterials and tissue. The long-term clinical function relies on effective load transfer and an adaptive tissue interface, capable of remodeling, hence having a cellular infrastructure. Ongoing projects are supported by the faculty, STINT, Vinnova and EU and include the impact of diabetes on implant healing, the mechanics of the interface, the use of additive manufacturing and reducing biomaterial associated infections by antimicrobial surfaces (www.bioremia.eu).

Infection control of medical devices
The research group led by Associate Professor Margarita Trobos focuses at understanding the causes of infections related to medical devices and evaluating new diagnostic and antimicrobial strategies, through clinical studies and experimental models. Infection on implants is one of the worst complications and numbers are increasing due to the large elderly population, representing more than half of hospital-acquired infections. These infections are caused by microorganisms that grow in biofilms and are difficult to diagnose and treat. The global rise on antibiotic resistance challenges their control and require urgent innovative alternatives to antibiotics. In collaboration with industrial partners, the group is currently addressing alternative treatments for chronic wounds to stop bacterial communication and virulence. Further, a new diagnostic method is under evaluation to guide treatment decisions of orthopaedic infections caused by biofilms. The joint program Chalmers–GU and BIOREMIA are research and educational training programmes to develop biofilm-resistant materials for bone implant applications. For these projects funding has been provided from CARe, SSF, VGR, Area of Advance Materials and EU.