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Current Project

Polymer Division (IV)


Number: 2004-043-1-400

Title: Terminology for biomedical (therapeutic) polymers

Task Group
Michel Vert

Members: Yoshiharu Doi, Avi Domb, Karl-Heinz Hellwich, Michael Hess, Kaz Horie, Ramani Narayan, Stanilav Penczek, Marguerite Rinaudo, François Schué, and W.J. Work

Like most of the materials used by humans, polymers and polymeric materials have been tested and occasionally exploited by surgeons and pharmacists to treat trauma and diseases. This project is aimed at proposing a list of terms and definitions to be accepted and respected by academic, industrial and normative people active in the biomedical and pharmacological fields (in harmony with the environmental field).

More and more therapeutic problems are relevant to the use of polymer-based therapeutic aids for a limited period of time, namely the healing time related to the outstanding capacity of living systems to self-repair, e.g. bone fracture fixation with screws and plates, of wound closure by sutures and also of drug delivery from implants or similar systems based on polymeric matrices, or on aqueous dispersions or solutions of polymers. After healing the remaining prosthetic materials or devices become foreign residues or wastes that have to be eliminated from the body. Nowadays, biocompatible polymers that can degrade in the body are developed. The degradation and the elimination of degradation by-products depend on rather complex phenomena that are presently reflected inconsistently by terms issued from the tradition because each domain has developed its own
terminology almost independently. This is a source of misunderstandings, confusions and misperceptions among scientists, surgeons, pharmacists, journalists and politicians, the situation being increased by the introduction of degradable polymers in plastic waste management and environmental protection. Therefore, it is urgent to reflect the various phenomena by specific terms, harmonize and enforce their use by the people active in the biomedical, pharmacological and environmental fields, and, last but not least by the publishing media and journalists.

The released document will consist in a list of different situations or phenomena facing the terms selected to reflect these situations with formal definitions harmonized to be accepted by the various relevant areas of polymer applications in contact with living systems. ASTM, ECS, (European Committee for Standardization) and normalization bodies of different countries will be consulted to make the definitions accepted worldwide at last.

Feb 2007 - Establishing a terminology related to polymeric materials used by surgeons and pharmacologists has been under way for almost two years. Good progress has been achieved but in the meantime, the Task Group has realized that polymers are also used in contact with living systems of the environment to which humans also belong. Therefore, a prolongation is aimed at completing the engaged work and at extending its field to achieve a harmonized terminology applicable to all bio-related polymers and polymer applications, a goal that was originally thought would be accomplished as parallel tasks.

Last update: 17 April 2007

<project announcement published in Chem. Int. Sep-Oct 2005>


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Page last modified 17 April 2007.
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