University of Wollongong researchers are growing jobs and materials from the sea for medical treatments through a project in the Shoalhaven area to farm and process seaweeds that will then be used biomaterials such as cell carriers in medical implants.
Seaweed extracts are already commonly used in goods as diverse as toothpaste, skin care products, paint, ice cream and salad dressing.
However, research in the field of glycobiology – the study of complex sugars called glycans in living organisms – is showing that seaweed has a major role to play in the development on new and biologically active materials for medical treatments.
Gel molecules taken from seaweeds are ideal candidates for medical implants and tissue engineering because they provide the necessary structural support and have also been found to act as a frontline defence and communication system in supporting or inhibiting the interaction with microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. This would provide researchers with a broader range of biocompatible materials with the ability to fight infectious diseases.
“These gels are highly cell compatible and even stimulate the health and development of human stem cells, so in the instance of looking for new polymer materials for medical implants, seaweeds are a key candidate for the source of such materials,” Dr Winberg said (…)