Fibroblasts (in bright blue), the cells that comprise many soft tissues throughout the body, grow along nanofabricated surgical mesh designed in a starburst pattern. Individual nanofibers originate from a central point and radiate outward, encouraging cells to migrate and grow toward the center of a wound.
The mesh, created by medical student Matthew R. MacEwan and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis, was developed to repair defects in the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord, but also could be used to mend tissues as well. The nanofiber has the potential to make operations easier for surgeons and reduce the rate of complications experienced by patients.
For his efforts, MacEwan was awarded the Olin Cup, sponsored by Washington University's Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. He has worked closely with the university's Office of Technology Management, which has filed patents on the technology. And, at 29, he has started his own local company, Retectix LLC, aimed at revolutionizing the surgical mesh used in operating rooms worldwide.