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In-Depth Market Research and Trend Analysis

Covering Innovative and Emerging Technologies

News

Market Snapshots

Click on the topic of interest to view the relevant market snapshot:


Healthcare and Biomedical Engineering

Bioresorbable polymers,  3D Bioprinting,  Microfluidic devices for neurology,  Tissue engineering scaffoldsTissue repair and engineering procedures for cancer treatment,  Medical electronics


Advanced Materials

Thermoelectric materials,  Flat glass for radiation shielding


Nanotechology

Nanotextiles,  Graphene for healthcare


Mechanical, Chemical and Environmental Technologies

Superalloys and shape memory alloys for medical applications

 

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Healthcare and Biomedical Engineering


The global market for bioresorbable polymers (BPs) is estimated at $896 million in 2018. Bioresorbable polymers are gaining increasing attention in the medical industry for their ability to completely and naturally dissolve in the human body, while contributing to the formation of new tissue.  


BPs consist of two categories of materials: biopolyesters and agro-polymers. Biopolyesters currently represent the largest segment at 82% of the total market and include materials such as polylactic acid (PLA, or polylactide), polyglycolic acid (PGA), polycaprolactone (PCL), polydioxanone (PDO), and their copolymers (e.g., PLA/PGA and PLA/PCL) and derivatives (e.g., PLLA and PDLA).  Polylactic acid is the most popular in this category. PLA decomposes into lactic acid, a compound that already forms in muscle tissue during exercise and that is naturally eliminated by the body.


Although less popular, agro-polymers, which comprise polysaccharides and proteins, also find various uses as biodegradable implants, drug delivery products, and surgical threads.


To date, BPs have been primarily applied in the fabrication of medical products for orthopedics,  drug delivery, surgery, and dentistry, as summarized in the next table.

 


However, there are several technological trends that are reshaping this market. The most relevant relates to the introduction of bioresorbable polymers in the manufacturing of stents.  Stents are implantable devices whose function is to restore adequate flow of biological fluids in cardiovascular, urethral, esophageal, biliary, and pancreatic vessels. Cardiovascular bioresorbable stents, in particular, have become the subject of numerous research and development activities in recent years.  

Originally, stents were made from metals such as platinum, chromium and stainless steel. They were  not biodegradable and over time they caused new tissue overgrowth resulting in restenosis (narrowing of the artery) and aggregation of platelets leading to thrombosis. In the early 2000s, drug-eluting stents based on metal alloys (e.g., nitinol) were introduced comprising immunosuppressants and antiproliferative agents , the most common of which are sirolimus and everolimus. These drugs prevent excessive proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells but also delay growth of endothelial cells.


In 2016, the FDA approved a bioresorbable vascular scaffold (BVS) based on PLLA that re-establishes normal blood flow while supporting the artery for three to six months. The BVS slowly degrades within 3 years, leaving behind a completely healed artery with restored vasomotion.  This absorbable coronary DES, which contains everolimus, is called Absorb GT1 BVS and was introduced by Abbott Vascular ( Santa Clara, CA).

However, in 2017, the FDA issued a safety alert for this product due to the occurrence of adverse cardiac events, leading Abbott to halt sales. Since then, the company has continued to work on the development of a new generation of bioresorbable devices.


Current issues with biodegradable stents are incomplete endothelialization, fragmentation of the stent, and severe inflammation, but there are some products on the market that have shown good performance to date.  Elixir Medical (Milpitas, CA) manufactures DESolve, a fully bioresorbable PLLA novolimus-eluting scaffold that degrades in 1 year. The device is CE-mark approved, but not yet available in the U.S. Arterial Remodeling Technologies (Paris, France), a division of Terumo (Tokyo, Japan), produces ART PBS, a PDLLA-based bioresorbable stent that received its CE-mark approval in 2015. The device is completely absorbed in 2 years.


Development of bioresorbable DES is continuing at full speed worldwide, as these devices are considered a very promising alternative to conventional metal stents. Improvements are being achieved by the addition of nitric oxide-releasing nanoparticles to prevent platelet adhesion and through BP patterning by ultrashort pulsed laser technology to promote adhesion and proliferation of endothelial cells.


In addition to anti-inflammatory drugs, bioactive agents are being incorporated into these devices including platelet-derived growth factors with the function of stimulating growth of endothelial, muscle and fibroplastic cells. Bioresorbable polymers encapsulate these therapeutic agents and also ensure that they are gradually released.


Other emerging cardiovascular applications for BPs include prosthetic heart valves and coatings for metal stents. Also, composite bioresorbable membranes are being introduced as barriers to prevent post-cardiac surgical sternal and epicardial adhesions. During resorption, these membranes act as scaffolds for new cell growth, forming a natural barrier once they are completely degraded.


Bioresorbable polymers are also being adopted in the fabrication of probes for evaluating neural activities. Existing probes are made from metals and are rigid. Since the brain is made of a soft tissue, metallic probes cause irreversible tissue damage if inserted for long periods, leading to electrode failures. Probes made from bioresorbable polymers become softer as they degrade and eventually are completely resorbed, thus improving the long-term performance of depth probes.

Another application of BPs in neurology is for producing nerve guidance channels (or conduits) to connect the ends of damaged nerves located in the peripheral nervous system. Nerve conduits provide axons with space where they can grow while being protected from new traumatic events. Nerve channels made from BPs can be engineered so that the time of their degradation matches the time needed for functional recovery of the injured nerve.


BPs are finding additional uses as embolic coils and particles to control bleeding  during surgery, restrict blood supply to tumors, and stop hemorrhages. Typically, these coils are made from metals and work by promoting clot formation around the coil. Although metal coils have desirable properties such as radiopacity and shape memory, they also show drawbacks including chronic tissue damage, tissue overgrowth, and permanent incorporation into the tissue. BPs are attractive materials for embolotherapy since they are inherently radiopaque, degradable, and applicable in repeated treatments.


In drug delivery, bioresorbable polymers are becoming popular as drug carriers for cancer therapy. They are being engineered to respond more effectively to physical and chemical stimuli such as temperature, light, ultrasound, electric current, pH changes, and enzymatic activities, so that targeting of cancerous cells can be optimized.  


Electrospun nonwoven fabrics based on BPs are being manufactured for wound treatment and repair of soft and hard tissues. These products incorporate growth factors and proteins that can be delivered to the wound area with good spatial and temporal control.


3D printing is being investigated for fabrication of scaffolds with complex and customized shapes. Currently, one of the main issues with 3D printing is that common bioresorbable polymers can only be formed at relatively high temperatures. For example, PLA requires processing temperatures greater than 200°C, which negatively impact the biological properties of this material.


Biocomposites are gaining traction in bone tissue regeneration applications. Bioresorbable polymers are combined with calcium phosphate-based materials, such as hydroxyapatite (HA), to create products with improved load-bearing properties and biocompatibility. Polymers with different properties can be mixed together before addition to calcium phosphate compounds. For example, PLA, which is characterized by fast degradation behavior, can be blended with PCL, which exhibits a ductile behavior, to optimize biological and mechanical properties of the composite product. Composites based on PLA/PCL are generating strong interest because PCL reduces the brittleness of PLA, providing a material with characteristics similar to cancellous bone and easier to form by 3D printing. Nanomaterials, such nanohydroxyapatite, are also being added to BPs to fabricate composite membranes, fixation devices, and other advanced biomedical products with enhanced performance.


All these trends are projected to contribute to healthy market growth during the next five years, with BP revenues estimated to rise at a CAGR of 13.8% through 2023. BPs for cardiovascular products are expected to account for approximately 10% of the market by the end of the forecast period.




Nanotechnology


The market for graphene used in medical applications is projected to grow at a CAGR of 39.1% through 2026.

 

Graphene was first isolated from graphite in 2004 by Prof. Andre Geim and Prof. Kostya Novoselov at the University of Manchester in the U.K. Since then, this one-atom-thick carbon allotrope with a hexagonal honeycomb structure has been rapidly gaining attention worldwide for its unique structure and properties.

 

Various methods are available for producing graphene. They are summarized in the table below, based on popularity. Popularity has been calculated based on the share of global patents and patent applications published during the past 20 years for that particular production method.

 

 

Most of the existing fabrication methods are unable to produce graphene in large quantities without compromising its intrinsic characteristics, thus contributing to the high unit price of this material.  In recent years, roll-to-roll and plasma-enhanced CVD processes, and liquid-phase exfoliation have been developed to manufacture graphene on a mass scale.

 

Graphene is presently sold primarily as mono-, bi-, and few-layer coatings (e.g., on copper foil, silica substrate, or polymer film); nanostructures (e.g., nanoplatelets, quantum dots, and nanoribbons); and graphene oxide powder.

 

At the present time, graphene is chiefly used for applications within the electronics (including optoelectronics), composites, and energy sectors, for fabrication of devices such as supercapacitors, batteries, organic photovoltaic cells, high-strength composites, touch screens, liquid crystal displays, and organic light-emitting diodes. A number of applications are also emerging within the medical field.

 

As shown in the next figure, graphene exhibits various relevant properties, such as high conductivity (electrons move faster than in other materials), flexibility and elasticity, biocompatibility, and antimicrobial properties. All these properties make graphene (and its oxide) suitable for different types of applications within the healthcare sector. They can be grouped according to five main categories: sensors, implants and scaffolds, imaging and testing, therapies, and others.

 

 

The global graphene market is estimated to be valued at $31.3 million in 2016 and forecast to grow at a 45.7% CAGR during the next 10 years, exceeding global revenues of  $1.3 billion by 2026. Graphene for medical applications is estimated to account for just 2.2% of the global market in 2016. Growing at a CAGR of 39.1%, graphene for the healthcare sector is projected to generate global revenues of $18.7 million in 2026. Sensors and therapies will account for nearly 70% of the market.

 

 


The next table provides a list of key producers of graphene, with special focus on medical applications.

 


 

Related topics: Synthesis of graphene, biosensors for foodborne pathogens, graphene quantum dots for chemo-photothermal cancer therapy, graphene-based flexible and stretchable bioelectronics, graphene scaffolds for the nervous system, graphene-based super-resolution imaging

Healthcare and Biomedical Engineering


The market for 3D bioprinting is estimated to expand at a CAGR of 59.5% through 2021.

 

Since the start of the new millennium, the three-dimensional (3D) printing market has grown at an exceptional rate worldwide. Surging to a CAGR greater than 15% since 2000, 3D printing has become a very popular technique for rapid prototyping and new product development, reaching global revenues of nearly $5 billion in 2015. Applications target various industry sectors including aerospace, automotive, education, architecture, consumer products and arts and crafts.

 

3D printing is also gaining increasing interest in the biomedical sector for the fabrication of devices such as hearing aids, dental implants, and artificial prostheses. An emerging field for 3D printing within the healthcare sector is bioprinting. The term bioprinting refers in particular to the use of additive manufacturing in the form of digital printing to create living tissues.

 

Bioprinting technologies that have been developed to date are summarized in the table below.




Many of these techniques are used to produce 3D structures using layer-by-layer deposition. Currently, the most common bioprinting method is syringe extrusion, in which the fluids to be printed are ejected with a low shear force onto the substrate. The substrate usually consists of a bio-inert hydrogel.

 

Syringe extrusion is typically performed according to two processes. The first process is a double printing method in which living cells in the form of cellular spheroids are printed by alternating spheroids and a supporting film. The supporting film functions to keep the cells in place during construction of the 3D structure, and is produced from natural and synthetic hydrogels (e.g., alginate, collagen, chitosan, hyaluronic acid, and polyethylene glycol), biocompatible polymers (e.g., polycaprolactone), and ultra-violet cross-linkable polymers (Irgacure).

 

The second extrusion process is single-step and consists of using a bioink containing both the cells and the fluid that holds the cells in place. In addition to cells and supporting fluid, other biocompatible and biological entities having different functions can be added to the bioink such as bioactive components, morphogens, organoids, and growth factors. To deposit cells, supporting fluid, and other components, printing systems with either single or multi-nozzle configurations can be adopted.  

 

At the present time, the remaining bioprinting methods are not very popular due to various drawbacks.  Inkjet printing, for example, tends to damage the cells and the printhead becomes easily clogged, while laser-guided direct writing is characterized by low throughput. However, numerous R&D activities are in progress to improve the performance of existing bioprinting techniques.

 

The ultimate goal of 3D bioprinting is to eventually reproduce human organs. This goal is naturally expected to raise many ethical issues. In the meantime, bioprinting is gaining traction for tissue engineering research, drug development, and toxicology studies. 

 

A summary of current and emerging applications for bioprinting is provided in the table below. 


  

Scientists have already been able to print several types of tissues, including bone, cartilage, vascular, muscle, liver, and skin. Fillers are placed in the 3D structures to form channels or empty spaces similar to those present in natural tissues. These features are needed for the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to maintain living tissue. Tissue engineering research is focusing on both implantable tissues and tissue printed on site (e.g., skin tissue printed on a patient with burns).

 

The next table provides a sample of relevant research activities in progress at various leading R&D organizations involved in 3D bioprinting.

 

 

In 2016, bioprinting is estimated to represent less than 3% of the global biomedical 3D printing market. Expected to exit the development stage, bioprinting is forecast to generate global revenues of $248 million in 2021, corresponding to a CAGR of 59.5% during the next five years.  Sales figures include materials (e.g., biocompatible constituents and bioinks), equipment (e.g., inkjet printers), and products (e.g., implantable components and tissues).  In 2021, bioprinting is projected to account for 12.5% of the nearly $2 billion biomedical 3D printing market. Bone and cartilage tissues for implants and skin tissues for cosmetics, wound treatment, and facial regeneration are projected to account for a combined 73% of the total market.

 

 





The next table provides a list of key players in the 3D bioprinting industry. They are producers of bioinks, bioprinted tissues and/or bioprinting equipment. 

 

 

Related topics: cartilage bioprinting for personalized medicine, nanocellulose-based bioink for cartilage bioprintingmechanically strong structures for bone repair,  bioprinting of differentiated epidermal tissues,  manufacturing readiness of bioprintingthe biopen as a handheld syringe-based extrusion bioprinter

 

 

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Healthcare and Biomedical Engineering


The market for microfluidic devices for neurology is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 20.1% through 2021.

 

The human nervous system consists of the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which includes nerves and ganglia. The basic cell unit for the tissues forming the human nervous system is the neuron. There is growing interest in the development of technologies for the regeneration and repair of nervous tissue.

 

One of the most advanced technologies in this field is microfluidics. In neurology, microfluidics is applied either in vitro or in vivo to grow and isolate cells, probe functional properties of neurons, deliver treatments to diseased tissues, and regenerate the affected tissue.

 

A detailed summary of current and emerging applications of microfluidics in neurology is provided in the table below.