Unique glass technology holds promise for medical applications
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The Applied Research Center in Aiken County, Augusta company SpheroFill and Augusta University have developed unique glass technology applications.
The Applied Research Center LLC and Augusta University jointly licensed their provisional patent to SpheroFill LLC, a start-up company with headquarters in Augusta, according to a press release.
The glass technology, originally developed at the Savannah River National Laboratory for strategic material purposes, was further advanced and improved by ARC and tailored for applications outside the nuclear complex, according to the release.
Medical uses of these unique microspheres were led by Augusta University researchers.
The joint patent, Glass Composites For Tissue Augmentation, Biomedical and Cosmetic Applications has medical applications in areas such as restorative medicine, treatment of laryngeal issues, and cosmetics.
In the human body, a modified version of the compound could be used to deliver medication to a targeted region, releasing the drug at will and on a schedule, according to research by Dr. George Wicks, chief technology officer at Applied Research Center; Dr. Paul Weinberger, former otolaryngology surgeon at Augusta University now at LSU; and Dr. William Hill, professor of cellular biology and anatomy at Augusta University.
Based on their knowledge of this technology and the needs of the medical profession, the three researchers founded SpheroFill, a biotech company with the goal of using the Porous Wall Hollow Glass Microspheres, also known as PWHGMs, for biomedical purposes.
“The main goal of our company is to bring this technology to where it can actually start affecting lives,” said Weinberger, who is an alumnus of the university’s Medical College of Georgia and President of SpheroFill.
This is a good example of technology advances from the federal laboratories to the private sector for purposes not originally envisioned, Weinberger said in the release.
The uniqueness of the glass microspheres lies in their hollow structure and porous walls. About one third the diameter of a human hair, the microspheres have pores that allow various materials, including solids, liquids, gases to pass through and then released and delivered on demand.
“This really represents a very exciting, new class of composite materials developed by an interdisciplinary team,” Wicks said. “In key areas of the medical profession, there seems to be a whole host of potential uses, including a variety of new products in diagnostics, repair of body parts and in therapy technologies”
Of particular interest to SpheroFill is the biomedical applications of the microspheres based on their hollow structure, which can be filled with medication and enhanced with a biocompatible and/or bioactive coating. The microspheres can then be injected locally and programmed for a controlled release of the drug.
“It’s an innovative technology with commercial potential that was only made possible through collaboration between a team of researchers and the support and work of Savannah River National Laboratory, Applied Research Center and Augusta University,” said Carl Clark, director of the Office of Innovation Commercialization at Augusta University
Initially, the SpheroFill co-founders will focus on using the microspheres as a new treatment option for voice disorders in older patients and as tissue filler for wrinkles and restorative plastic surgery.
The next step will be the military use of the technology to accelerate muscle and bone repair; the long-term goal is cancer treatment based on another patent SpheroFill licensed at the same time, according to the release.
“One of the real advantages of being able to do things very specifically and locally, for example treating a tumor, is that we can use higher doses within a very limited area without having side effects common in a systemic treatment,” Hill said. “Cancer treatment is a big thing in the future for us.”
Fred Humes, president of the Applied Research Center, has been interested in the technology while still under development at SRNL.
When the technology to manufacture the microspheres was licensed to MoSci Corporation of Rolla, Missouri, ARC and MoSci formed a partnership to advance the science, improve the functionality and quality of the spheres, develop coatings and begin loading various materials in the spheres, according to the release.
To date, ARC’s emphases have been in the medical field with its close association to SpheroFill and in anti-counterfeiting technology with South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the Center for Security Printing and Anti-counterfeiting Technology.
“This is a great example of technology originally funded by the federal government now being advanced by the private sector for the good of society,” Humes said. “A perfect example of technology-based economic development.”
The Applied Research Center LLC is an affiliate of the Economic Development Partnership. It currently operates six laboratories and offices at Aiken County’s Savannah River Research Campus.