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What is a Biomaterial? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you're going to learn about the definition of something known as a biomaterial. You'll also learn examples of biomaterials and where they can be used.

Not Fully Human

Chances are pretty good that you know of someone, or have at least heard of someone, who isn't fully human. Yet, they are technically considered human in the literal sense.

Why aren't they fully human? It's because they might have something that is part of their body that was definitely not there when they were born. They are a bionic man or woman, so to speak.

Intrigued by what might be in their body that makes them super-human? It's probably a biomaterial. Let's find out what this is and explore some examples of biomaterials in this lesson.

What is Biomaterial?

A biomaterial is the following:

1. It is a non-viable substance or combination of substances. In other words, this material is unable to develop, grow, or frankly live in general.

2. This substance can be naturally or synthetically derived, and it can be a solid or even a liquid.

3. The substance is used to (partially or completely) replace, regenerate, repair, or augment any body part, tissue, or organ in terms of structure and/or function.

4. The substance is used to improve or maintain the quality of life of an individual.

5. The substance is NOT a drug!

Sometimes, the term biomaterial is also used with respect to aesthetics (like braces), but other times it is not. Additionally, some definitions avoid using the term non-viable, opening up the possibility of things like tissue engineering.

Examples

Regardless, biomaterials are used in biological systems and as part of medical devices. Examples of biomaterials include things you've definitely heard of before:

  • Metals
  • Ceramics
  • Glass
  • Polymers
  • Biomaterials derived from animals

Hip replacements are made from biomaterials.
Hip replacements are made from biomaterials.

For instance, Jake has an artificial knee. That artificial knee may use such biomaterials as silicone and titanium, among many others. Amy has intraocular lenses. These are made, in part, from acrylic and silicone. Casey has had dental work done. Some of that work was made possible thanks to gold and some thanks to bioglass - both biomaterials. Rick has had vascular grafts placed, which can be made from GORE-TEX. Meghan has had orthopedic surgery where sterilized bovine bone was used, a natural kind of biomaterial.

Contact lenses are made from biomaterials as well.
Contact lenses are made from biomaterials as well.

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