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Innovations Help Bodies Heal Better, Naturally

Buddy Ratner
Facing a condition that requires a medical implant can be daunting. Eye lenses, pacemakers, artificial hips even though devices like these have revolutionized medicine and improved countless lives, the body's natural response is still to "wall them off" with scar tissue.

That's why finding a synthetic material the body will tolerate and even welcome is so important. The UW, led by bioengineering professor Buddy Ratner, has been the world leader in the search for a solution for nearly 40 years. And it looks like that solution has finally arrived.

Buddy, the Michael L. & Myrna Darland Endowed Chair in Technology Commercialization, discovered that a material with a unique structure of "pores" of precisely the right size powerfully stimulates the body to heal naturally. In fact, the body is actually stimulated to embrace the material as "scaffolding" for growth.

The potential benefits of this innovation to all of us are astounding. By using the materials developed at the UW by Buddy and his colleagues, heart tissue could potentially rebuild itself after a heart attack. Permanent glucose monitors might help diabetes patients painlessly monitor their blood sugar. Electrodes implanted in the brain could control artificial limbs. Whole organs could potentially be regrown.

"It all started here at the UW," Buddy said. "We are the world leader in creating these materials we're taking innovation to a whole new level and promising a better life for people in the process."