When you think about it, it’s so logical. Of course the textiles industry would be a critical participant in responding to the needs of modern medicine. High performance textiles are everywhere in this environment, from the scrubs and lab coats worn by every health care provider to privacy curtains and disposable drapes in hospitals and clinics.
This doesn’t begin to cover it all. In fact, that most intriguing textiles may be the ones you don’t see. Biomedical textiles, engineered with very specific, but sometimes multi-functional purposes, are offering new hope in regenerative medicine and drug delivery systems.
Our feature “A healthy outlook” points out that health care may be the most dangerous occupation in the country. Protective textiles and garments are all that stand between health care workers and exposure to disease-causing microorganisms. In order to be of any value, the textiles used in health care settings must be high-performance: durable enough to be laundered appropriately to reduce the spread of pathogens, comfortable enough for human use and, in some cases, antibacterial as well.
While the developers of new medical textile products face constant challenges, they are not always related to technology issues. Rather, the legal and regulatory hurdles for any new medical material or product can be daunting. Between researching pertinent regulations and acquiring patents—never mind the process of testing and assuring that regulations and standards are met—a company can have a great deal of time and money invested before a profitable enterprise begins to appear on the horizon.
Nevertheless, research continues at a fairly robust level, the expectations for performance capabilities in textiles continue to grow, and the medical market eagerly awaits the new technologies and products that are sure to emerge. For those companies that are interested in, and capable of, making a long-term commitment, the future is on their side.