Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are bio-based microbial biopolyesters; their stiffness, elasticity, crystallinity and degradability are tunable by the monomeric composition, selection of microbial production strain, substrates, process parameters during production, and post-synthetic processing; they display biological alternatives for diverse technomers of petrochemical origin. This, together with the fact that their monomeric and oligomeric in vivo
degradation products do not exert any toxic or elsewhere negative effect to living cells or tissue of humans or animals, makes them highly stimulating for various applications in the medical field. This article provides an overview of PHA application in the therapeutic, surgical and tissue engineering area, and reviews strategies to produce PHA at purity levels high enough to be used in vivo
. Tested applications of differently composed PHA and advanced follow-up products as carrier materials for controlled in vivo
release of anti-cancer drugs or antibiotics, as scaffolds for tissue engineering, as guidance conduits for nerve repair or as enhanced sutures, implants or meshes are discussed from both a biotechnological and a material-scientific perspective. The article also describes the use of traditional processing techniques for production of PHA-based medical devices, such as melt-spinning, melt extrusion, or solvent evaporation, and emerging processing techniques like 3D-printing, computer-aided wet-spinning, laser perforation, and electrospinning.
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