Materials employed in biomedical technology are increasingly being designed to have specific, desirable biological interactions with their surroundings, rather than the older common practice of trying to adapt traditional materials to biomedical applications. Moreover, materials scientists are also increasingly deriving new lessons from naturally occurring materials (from mollusk shells to soft animal tissue) about useful composition-structure property relationships that might be mimicked with synthetic materials. Together, these two areas of effort constitute what we may call bioengineered materials. It is possible to set down a reasonably thorough set of characteristics that bioengineered materials have in common. Among these characteristics we discuss the following: self-assembly, bioengineered materials often rely on information content built into structural molecules to determine the order and organization of the material; hierarchical structure, in most bioengineered materials several different length scales of structure are essential and are formed spontaneously and simultaneously via self-assembly; precision synthesis, fundamental to biological material structures is the idea of macromolecules constructed in a precise manner; templating, ordered structures in bioengineered materials are often propagated from one element or set of instructions, to another; specific and non-specific interactions, the forces involved in holding biomaterials structures together. In the future, a carefully selected combination of this set of characteristics will enable us to bioengineer surfaces that are capable to direct and control a desired biological response. Eventually, such bioengineered surfaces will become important tools to comprehend and analyze how materials interact in nature.
- Tirrell, M., Kokkoli, E., and Biesalski, M. "The Role of Surface Science in Bioengineered Materials", Surf. Sci., 2002, 500 (1-3): 61-83.
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