The first full week of November was pretty eventful at Chalmers University of Technology with conferences and seminars highlighting research and technologies in life science, health, and medicine.
On the 6th and 7th of November, the university hosted the Materials for Tomorrow conference – an impactful meeting for scientists and industry to share knowledge, collaborate, and tackle challenges in materials science and its applications in health.
From implants, 3D printing, and biosensors,to nanotechnologies, nanomaterials, and many other interesting topics, the event shed a light on the current state in this field, developments, challenges, and future expectations.
Many promising materials are being developed and used to provide better prostheses and implants to provide a shorter recovery timeline for patients.
The main challenge is to ensure a stable interface with body tissues and also to reduce infections caused by complications that may arise due to the inability of the body tissues to integrate properly with the inserted materials.
And this problem is being tackled using different materials such as coating titanium implants with ceramic, which has shown good integration with bone and acceptable vascularization; or the development of antibacterial surface coatings for prevention.
3D Bioprinting of cartilage tissue to solve knee cartilage degeneration and other related joint problems was also presented.
Furthermore, organic materials are also being developed to improve the quality of 3D printing of human soft tissue and there are also current studies that address the possibility of large scale production of cells and the possibility of their autonomous reproduction when needed.
Another important aspect discussed was the role of ethics and regulations to ensure patient safety and the proper framework of conducting research and clinical trials in this highly-competitive and booming field.
Multiple resources on ethics and regulations are available in Sweden for conducting scientific research, experiments, and product development such as the Medical Products Agency in Sweden and Codex (rules and guidelines for research) websites. This is to follow the great philosophy of Hippocrates – the father of medicine: “first, do no harm”.
Having had the chance to interact with many interesting attendees and speakers, many valuable opinions and insights were exchanged.
For instance, Professor Pentti Tengvall from Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg shared his views on the challenging task of modeling living cells and studying mechanical stimulant effects due to the variety of cells and the dynamic nature of their interactions.
He also highlighted the importance of transparency and adherence to approved procedures in Sweden.
Johanna Höög from the University of Gothenburg held an interesting session about the discovery of a helix-shaped protein found within microtubules – which were thought to be hollow – using cryo-electron tomography on human sperm.
This discovery raises new questions regarding the identification, formation, function, and clinical significance of this protein.
During the fika break, I was able to discuss with her the significance of this discovery and its potential applications, which could involve male fertility and related issues.
From a different perspective, Materials Engineering student Kirana from Chalmers, expressed her interest in relating her studies to biology and applying materials engineering to different fields.
Many of the speakers and attendees also emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary cooperation to provide solutions that would improve the quality of patients’ lives.
The event was very inspiring with many valuable ideas to take home but I would like to emphasize a few:
There is a great opportunity to innovate and create solutions for healthcare and medicine.
This is a highly interdisciplinary field, and there is room for scientists, engineers, and innovators with different backgrounds and skills to contribute.
Surround yourself with passionate and knowledgeable people; there is a lot to learn from others and many opportunities to collaborate and come up with valuable but also innovative approaches to enhance the quality of life for medical patients.
Finally I hope you all enjoy a healthy journey and a rewardable experience here in Sweden!
By Tamara Goudian, Chair of the NFGL Local Network in Gothenburg. She is studing Biomedial Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology