A new biomaterial testing protocol could form the basis of an early-warning system to flag materials that are not suitable for clinical use inside the human body. Relative to available approaches, the oxidative stress test devised by researchers from the University of Sheffield (U.K.), Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology (Germany) and University of Warwick (U.K.) can better simulate deployment environments, such as those inside the human body, and identify cracks and surface degradation.

The method subjects biomaterials to oxidation and mechanical stresses to provide a better understanding of how materials will perform over time in clinical use and identify issues likely to occur should they be used as a medical treatment. The researchers developed the procedure by evaluating a type of surgical mesh made of polypropylene (PP). Widely used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence, the material has caused life-changing complications in thousands of women and led to medical negligence lawsuits.

Application of a secondary electron hyperspectral imaging technique revealed that the stress loaded onto the PP mesh while inside the body likely caused polymer oxidation and chemical reactions in the materials. Resulting changes in the molecular structure induce material cracking and the release of etched oxidized insoluble particles, initiating an inflammatory response in the body.

A paper detailing the in vivo test method is published in RSC Advances.

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