HATTIESBURG — Technology from a Mississippi company has been used in an international medical breakthrough: Hybrid Plastics’ unique technology called POSS (Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxane) was recently used to enable the world’s first synthetic organ transplant.
In the surgery performed in June 2011 in Sweden, a terminally ill cancer patient received a new trachea, or windpipe, made from his own stem cells. Dr. Alex Seifalian of the University College of London Medical School used POSS and another substance to design a “synthetic scaffold” to which the patient’s stem cells became bonded.
A transplant of this nature means a patient doesn’t have to wait for a donor organ or take anti-rejection medication after the procedure is completed.
Hybrid Plastics’ COO Carl Hagstrom said POSS “is a platform technology, which means it has applicability in many areas. These range from flying on the international space station and to food packaging, from coatings and to bioengineering. For instance, oil is also essentially a platform technology since it can be converted it into different things.”
Additionally, “We have 90 different compounds in our R&D catalogue that are variations of the basic molecule. … We start with an inorganic silicon oxygen cage and then we put organics on the outside of that cage. The organics will make the molecule compatible with the medium into which we’re placing it. Because we make individual molecules, which are called monomers, we can control how they react within the medium or matrix that we put them into,” Hagstrom said.
Hybrid is able to do all this by working in nanoscale. As explained by Dr. Robert Lochhead, head of the University of Southern Mississippi’s polymer science program, “’Nano’ comes from nanometer. It’s a one hundred billionth of a meter. A molecule of water is about a tenth of a nanometer. So if you take 10 water molecules, that’s one nanometer. That’s pretty small.”
Hybrid Technologies discloses it earns between $5 million and $10 million in revenues annually and is owned entirely by its nearly 30 employees.
New clotting agent developed to save soldiers’ lives
Hybrid Plastics has developed other biological agents, such as a clotting agent that can be used to stop bleeding. It is undergoing animal trials at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Uncontrolled hemorrhage is the leading cause of death on the battlefield. The new POSS product can be easily injected into the wound to form a viscoelastic blood clot that stops bleeding completely. Due to the adhesive and flexible nature of the substance, compression and bandage application is usually not necessarily.
UMMC has conducted studies on anesthetized swine, and hemostatis was achieved with POSS in as little as a few seconds or up to less than three minutes in artery, lung and liver wounds, depending on the extent of injury.
Solventless paint in beta testing
Hybrid Plastics is currently in the beta testing phase for an odorless, solventless paint that will have an industrial use.
Traditional paint involves colored pigment and a solvent, or liquid, which puts space between particles so they can flow. When paint is applied and the water or oil-based solvent evaporates, paint flattens out and hardens.
Using POSS, Hybrid Plastics is able to eliminate the solvent in paint because POSS causes particles to move as if with “molecular ball bearings.” Hybrid’s paint will be able to be flash cured using UV light and will have no fumes or smell.
“People are interested in looking at this because they consider it to be more sustainable,” Hagstrom said.
The product will be suitable for industrial customers who use big drying ovens and are restricted by federal environmental limits on volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
Working to develop composites with USM
Hybrid Plastics made the national news when it relocated from California to Hattiesburg in 2004 to be closer to the University of Southern Mississippi’s polymer science department.
“There is a large percentage of the faculty (at USM) that has worked with POSS, and we have a couple projects underway now working with faculty,” Hagstrom said.
One of those projects also involves Ingalls Shipbuilding. The collaboration is currently working to create material composites that will hopefully be used to create the Naval ship super structures of the future.
An example of a composite is fiberglass that is used to make a car, Hagstrom said. “You basically take glass fibers and impregnate them with resin” to make a material lighter and more rust-resistant than normal metals. Future seaworthy composites will be as tough as steel but lighter and less corrosive.
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