Artificial heart valves, pacemakers, bone pins, contact lenses: biomedical engineers have developed an amazing array of devices that we put inside our bodies. It’s Maud Gorbet’s job to consider what happens to these devices once they’re in place.
“My expertise is in biocompatibility,” she explains. That’s the study of how artificial materials behave inside the human body – and what the body does in response.
Maud’s research includes studying how contact lenses and their cleaning solutions interact with the cells of the cornea and why those interactions can sometimes cause problems.
Recently, she’s begun to study how blood clots form around artificial heart valves and the stainless steel tubes — stents – that keep clogged arteries from closing. She suspects that white blood cells play a key role in the way clots develop months or years after devices are implanted. “Most studies have focused on the role of platelets in clotting,” she says. “Clotting is what platelets do, but platelets aren’t the whole story. We can’t look at one little piece. The human system is complex.”
By understanding every part of that complexity, Maud hopes to improve the performance of medical implants – and the health of those who rely on them.