It has been
30 years since a professor in NC States College of Textiles created the first artificial
artery. Today, the college cant train graduates fast enough for the
growing and highly specialized medical and biotextiles industry. As U.S.
textile companies struggle with foreign competition in their traditional
markets, the college is continuing to expand its educational focus to the
industrys more innovative, higher value-added products and technologies.
Dr. Martin King, is a professor of textiles at NC State and a
leading expert in biotextiles. He defines the term biotextiles to
include structures composed of textile fibers designed for
use in specific biological environments
where their performance depends on biocompatibility and biostability with
cells and biological fluids. Biotextiles include devices implanted
in the body, such
as surgical sutures, hernia repair fabrics, arterial grafts, artificial skin,
and parts of artificial hearts.
Medical textiles, on the other hand, include everything from bandages, wound
dressings, and splints to orthotic devices and clothing used for rehabilitation.
Hospital linens, barrier fabrics, protective clothing, and operating room scrubs
are also medical textile products.
With the surge of new textile products in such a highly regulated
environment, companies like 3M, Johnson and Johnson, and Becton-Dickinson
are looking for
graduates with textile and medical knowledge to manage their supply chains. Pharmaceutical
companies also have this need now that biotextile devices and drugs are becoming
one and the same in things like contraceptive patches, says King. The
recruiters all seem to have my phone number.
The College of Textiles now offers an M.S. degree concentration
in biomedical textiles, as well as college-wide biomedical
concentrations in all four of its
undergraduate degree programs. These tracks will enable students to focus
on medical textiles regardless of whether they are registered in textile technology,
textile chemistry, textile engineering, or textile and apparel management, explains
King, who is responsible for the undergraduate program. That makes
NC State unique.
The biomedical textile programs build on existing biomedical
engineering curricula at NC State, and provide students a broad
grounding in biology and chemistry.
Working with faculty in the colleges extensive biomedical textile research
program, graduate students frequently find themselves collaborating with researchers
in engineering, veterinary medicine, or medical schools at other universities. Biocompatibility
will improve in the future because implants will be engineered from human cells
grown on textile scaffolds, says King. So multidisciplinary
teams will be our hallmark.