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Analyzing living cells quickly and accurately

Raman spectroscopy is a non-invasive optical procedure, which recognizes the molecular fingerprint of different materials. It has primarily been employed in quality control for pharmaceutical substances. Thanks to the research work at the Fraunhofer IGB the technology is now also suited for the investigation of living cells and tissues without invasive techniques or altering with dyes. The scientists have built a spectra database for the quick identification of already quantified cells. In order to characterize stem cells or identify changes to tissues that are caused by tumors, inflammations, fungi, or bacteria, it is now sufficient to determine the individual cells’ Raman spectrum.

Test systems as alternative for animal testing

New drugs and cosmetics must be tested for quality, safety and efficacy before market authorization. The Fraunhofer IGB has developed human test systems that are suited to compliment or replace animal tests. A patented three-dimensional human skin equivalent, which with its two-layered structure comes very close to the natural skin, can be used for the accredited testing of the phototoxic potential of substances and can be extended by other cells such as melanocytes or skin tumor cells. A three-dimensional adipose tissue model consists of mature adipocytes in a crosslinkable hydrogel. The model is suitable for lipid solubility studies. In addition, it can be further developed as an individual form-stable implant.

Novel tissue replacement from high-tech fibers

Regenerative medicine uses the body's own cells to heal injured tissue. Cells need a structural backbone in order to grow into a tissue. Researchers at the Fraunhofer IGB develop such substrates - also called scaffolds - by electrospinning. In this method, synthetic biodegradable polymers such as polylactide fibers are spun via an electric current and crosslinked into a fabric-like structure to form a three-dimensional matrix.  An innovative approach: During electrospinning, the researchers mix in tissue-specific proteins. The protein or polymer loaded substrates attract and bind endogenous cells after implantation. Depending on the protein, cells such as cardiomyocytes or trachea cells engraft into the scaffold, produce their own matrix and begin to regenerate diseased tissue.