Biomaterials are a special class of materials that have been engineered to take a form which, alone or as part of a complex system, is used to direct the course of any therapeutic or diagnostic procedure, by controlling interactions with components of living systems. Furthermore, biomaterials can be classified as types of materials – be it natural or synthetic, alive or lifeless and usually made of multiple components – that interact with biological systems. The biomaterials are used either for therapeutic (treat, augment, repair or replace a tissue function) or for diagnostic (sensors, cancer models, animal test substitution) purposes.
Synthetic biomaterials (ceramics, metals, polymers and composites) are prepared using a large variety of different processing methods. There are several industrial processing methods for producing synthetic biomaterials; however in this book chapter, only laboratory-scale technologies are presented. Anyway, sterilization is an important process of biomaterial development, whereby harmful substances (e.g. bacteria) are eliminated through the use of physical, chemical and physicochemical means (e.g. high temperature, intense radiation, concentrated toxic chemicals).
This book chapter – cells meet surface – deals primarily with the most important aspect of biomaterials, i.e. their interactions with cells. Cells are generally more sensitive to toxic materials in vitro than in vivo tissue. Therefore, a material showing a moderate to high level of toxicity in vitro may result not particularly toxic for the tissue in vivo, while a material harmless to the cells, even in long-lasting assays, is likely to be inert also in vivo. However, the word biocompatibility refers also to the interaction of a living system or tissue with a finished medical device or component material.
Cell-material interactions are a complex process and play an essential role for the integrity of biomaterials into the human body. Next to qualitative properties like compatibility or stability, other material characteristics influence the cellular interactions taking place at the interface. Especially, surface chemistry, elasticity, porosity and topography have a significant effect on the attachment, proliferation and differentiation of different cell lines and can control shape, size and density of cells. As the development of cells on a biomaterial surface can be tailored by surface properties, one section describes and explains the influence of different parameters and provides an overview of the involved processes. At the end of this book chapter, tissue engineering and biofabrication applications will be explained to open more complex but also more efficient insights of the cell meets surface issue.
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