Researchers used electron microscopy to image the two differentiated layers in their core-sheath fibers. Photo by Sunthar Mahalingam/UCL
Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Hybrid polymer fibers, featuring layers with different qualities, can be used for an array of biomedical applications, according to a new study in the journal Applied Physics Reviews.
Instead of searching for a single material that meets all the requirements of biomedical processes like tissue scaffolding, drug delivery and cardiac patching, authors of the new study suggest medical researchers utilize core-sheath polymer fibers -- hybrid fibers featuring a strong core surrounded by a biologically applicable sheath layer.
"You want strength, but you also want bioactivity," study co-author Mohan Edirisinghe said in a news release.
"So, if you align them in a core-sheath polymer, you have the strength of the core material, but the functionality comes from a bioactive polymer or ingredient that is in the sheath. That is a big advantage," said Edirisinghe, a material scientist at University College London.
Because researchers can select from an array of materials to create the core-sheath fibers, the layered fibers could be used to meet a variety of biomedical applications, including the creation of antiviral mask materials.
"If you want to make a fibrous mask from a textile, you really need to have the strength, because you're going to wash it and use it," Edirisinghe said. "But on the other hand, you need an active material."
Researchers suggest virus-fighting drugs or proteins could even be embedded in the fiber's sheath layer during the manufacturing process.
Scientists have already augmented several fiber fabrication processes to create prototype core-sheath fibers.
One of the most promising methods involves embedding a vessel with a reservoir of the core material inside another vessel with a reservoir of sheath material. The reservoirs are released simultaneously through the vessel orifices, creating a bi-layered core-sheath fiber.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg, because this is just two reservoirs with two materials, which become the sheath and core layers of the fibers, but you can extend this to three or four," Edirisinghe said. "In each layer, you can have a different drug that satisfies a different purpose."