Bio-Nano Cellulose: Will This New Mesh Dramatically Reduce Hernia Surgery Complications?

Medical Devices

Image courtesy of Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC).

Approximately 20 million people worldwide experience abdominal hernias, and the only way to alleviate the suffering is surgical intervention. 

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, more than 1 million hernia repairs are performed in the US every year. Roughly 80% of those repairs are for inguinal hernias (hernias in the groin area). 

Typically, in order to repair the hole or weakened area of the abdominal cavity, synthetic hernia mesh composed of polypropylene is used. 

However, an estimated 15% of hernia mesh repairs within one year after the surgery result in complications from the mesh itself. The synthetic polymers can cause foreign body interactions and painful adhesions. In addition hernia mesh side effects may produce digestive disorders as well as infertility. Furthermore, hernia mesh failure requires additional surgical intervention. 

Thankfully, a new type of hernia mesh material may one day greatly eliminate hernia mesh complications. 

Researchers from the Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) and B. Braun Surgical have recently collaborated to develop a surgical mesh made from a new type of natural polymer called bacterial nanocellulose, or bio-nanocellulose. Preliminary results from an animal study have yielded promising results, reports

The strategy for improving surgical mesh, explains Anna Roig, lead researcher of the Nanoparticles and Nanocomposites (NN) group at the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC), is to physically isolate the polyprolene mesh from the intestines and other organs in the abdominal cavity, and adding an anti-adhesion barrier. 

Bio-nanocellulose, the Spanish researchers hope, will prove to be that effective barrier. 

In addition to repairing hernias, other possible applications for the natural mesh polymer include cornea repair and cardiac implants. 

The study on hernia repair with bio-nanocellulose was published in the journal Biomaterials Science. At the conclusion of 21 days, the performance of the biopolymer as a soft tissue reinforcement material was evaluated.  The bacterial nanocellulose caused few adhesions, involving only 8 % of the total implanted surface, and the bio-meshes were well integrated into the abdominal wall. “Good post-operative recovery indicated that the material was well tolerated by the animals,” the researchers concluded. 

Time will only tell if the results carry over to humans.

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