The applications of materials in the medical sector are multiple: manufacture or coating of a biomedical equipment, fabrication of prostheses and artificial organs, formulation of controlled drug release systems. Polymers, both of natural and synthetic origin, possess great biocompatibility, can be extensively modified and tailored, and easily processed in complex shapes and structures. Nature itself exploits several polymers to build living organisms: as an example, cellulose, chitin, collagen and keratin are the structural components of plants and animals. In our group, we are interested in such versatile materials that can have a safe interaction with a biological environment and biodegrade in the body with no toxic or harmful by-products, while delivering bioactive compounds. We use natural polymers such as polysaccharides (i.e., cellulose, alginate and pectin) or proteins (i.e., silk fibroin, wool keratin, corn zein) to develop innovative biocomposites for tissue regeneration, controlled drug delivery and resorbable devices. We also exploit them in combination with natural ingredients to support the restoration of the physiological conditions during the body’s healing process.
Recently, we have incorporated to our research the development of natural-based materials for coral protection and coral reef restoration.