Applications described below represent the main areas of nanofiber utilization in healthcare. Many other medical applications can benefit from the favorable properties of nanofiber materials as well. Nanofibers for medical purposes can be spun from biodegradable polymers and allows various additives that bring intended functionality. Moreover the structure and size (close to human cells dimension) of nanofibers can be controlled, thus optimized for tissue engineering research.
Nanofiber membrane from biopolymers can be used as a bioactive material or drug carrier. Active pharmaceutical ingredients can be incorporated into the nanofibers they naturally show the fast release of drugs. As a result nanofibers provide significant
bioavailability improvement, especially for poorly soluble drugs.
Find more details in Drug delivery chapter
Nanofiber layers produced from biopolymers (chitosan, gelatine, collagen, polykaprolakton, etc., or combinations of these materials) can be used as a wound dressing for significant support of the wound healing process. On the basis of results realized from in vitro and in vivo experiments, nanofiber materials have shown significant benefits. When using nanofiber material on contaminated wounds, it is possible to add antibacterial material and drugs to
the nanofiber structure. Granulation and re-epithelialization of new dermal tissue can be enhanced by adding growth factor, and adding other materials which support proliferation
of dermal tissue.
The wound can be covered by a single nanofiber layer or it is possible to incorporate
a nanofiber layer onto other carriers and cover the wound with this composite material.
Nanofiber materials made from biopolymers (collagen, polylactic acid, polycaprolactone, etc.) are possible substrates for growing cells. With the appropriate mechanical and structural properties of the nanofiber material, it is possible to prepare scaffolds which are suitable for implanting by different types of cells. Nanofiber substrates effectively support cell proliferation and enable tissue replacement prepared from a patient´s cells. During the preparation of nanofiber scaffolds, it is possible to incorporate different bioactive materials, for example, growth factor, and eventually other drugs such as an immunosuppressant.
Barrier textiles containing hydrophobic nanofiber layers, for example polyuretan or polyvinyldenfluorid are an effective barrier for microorganism penetration (viruses, bacteria, molds). Barrier textiles are basically prepared as a “sandwich”, where the nanofiber layer is enclosed between a carrier layer and a covering layer. The composite ”sandwich” is produced by laminating the covering layer to the carrier layer. Spunbond or melt blown non-wovens may be used as a carrier and covering layer.
Barrier textiles are usable for surgical gowns, drapes and in disposable face mask production.