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Materials Timeline

Materials that can be introduced into the body


  • 9500-1000 B.C.—Sutures and stitches made from animal intestine fiber date back to Neolithic times in Europe.
  • 500 B.C.—Gold used in dentistry by Roman, Chinese and Aztec civilisations.
  • 600 A.D.—Mayans used blue nacre shell to replace lost teeth.
  • 1829—Henry Levert, an Alabaman doctor, tests the biocompatibility of different metals in dogs, finding that platinum is better tolerated than gold, silver or lead.
  • 1926—Invention of stainless steel allowed metals to be used regularly in the body for a reasonable cost.
  • 1930s—Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is synthesised, from which ‘silicone’ implants were later made.
  • Late 1940s—Plastics become readily available after WWII. Their major advantages: they are easy to shape, light and inert.
  • 1949—Sir Harold Ridley, uses poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) plastic to create intraocular lenses to treat cataracts.
  • 1952—Blood vessel replacement using parachute material left over from WWII.
  • 1960s—Charnley’s hip arthroplasty
  • 1975—Society for Biomaterials formed, birth of a science.
  • 1960s-1980s—Knee replacements, breast implants, stents, heart valve replacements. Materials: Teflon, hydrogels and bioglass.

Stay Tuned: the current advances will be explored in Week 3.

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This article is from the free online course:

Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts

University of Wollongong