A new generation of biomaterial should be designed to both manipulate and monitor cellular bioelectrical signals

In the future, new developments in biomaterials will depend on the field of materials science, and an enhanced knowledge of the way these materials interact at molecular, cellular, and tissue levels. In their article entitled Third-generation biomedical materials, Hench & Polak described the development and evolution of three generations of biomaterials [1]. During the 1960s and 1970s, the first generation of biomaterials was developed to mimic tissue that was lost to physical damage or disease, and it was preferable that these materials be ‘inert’ and not interact with the biology of the host organism.

Advances in our knowledge of biological mechanisms have led to a better understanding of biological interactions with biomaterial surfaces. Research and development of second-generation biomedical materials switched gears from “passive” materials to bioactive materials that could actively interact and integrate with the biological environment. The molecular biology revolution of the 1970s and advances in genomics and proteomics in the 1990s and 2000s have significantly promoted the development of biomaterials. By the 2000s, third-generation biomaterials were being created by combining the properties of bioactive materials and resorbable materials, and these new materials were able to activate genes and stimulate the regeneration of living tissue at a molecular level. Third-generation biomaterials that involve the molecular tailoring of microenvironments to achieve specific cellular responses have shown great promise.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2015.11.005