The Role of Polymer Science in IVDIn vitro diagnostics technologies involve the testing of samples outside of the body. However, the devices that are utilized within the body to capture those samples are significant to the overall success of a testing procedure. This article looks at the role of polymer science in the capture and delivery of those samples to ensure a successful outcome.

When it comes to in vitro diagnostics (IVD), chances are a company like Zeus that focuses almost exclusively on polymer science and extrusion technology used inside the body isn’t the first company that comes to mind. So what might a company like that offer on the topic of in vitro diagnostics?

Using the “chicken or the egg” example, it becomes apparent how a polymer science company does, in fact, play not just a small, but rather substantial role in the world of IVD. In the simplest of terms, Zeus polymer technology is a precursor and enabler to IVD. It helps to provide access to the body’s nooks and crannies to clinicians, which is necessary to explant tissue samples that are later studied in a lab setting. Diagnosing a test sample in vitro can’t occur until whatever is in the body is taken out.

When thinking about IVD in general, an important aspect is gaining access to the test specimen and collecting the appropriate amount from the right anatomical area. Clear access is important in improving accuracy when harvesting localized tissue samples, for example, and avoiding pitfalls like false negative test results.

Look at a simple example of the steps leading up to an IVD tissue biopsy. A gastroenterologist may go in through an endoscope and use biopsy forceps to section and explant a sample of tissue from a suspected tumor. From a general perspective, polymer technologies are used within the devices integral for navigating tortuous anatomy and providing a conduit for cutting and extraction devices, as well as components that are part of those cutting and extraction devices.

An example of one of these components would be PTFE Sub-Lite-Wall spiral striped heat shrink used as a lubricious covering and visual aid for guide wire placement. Other examples include fluoropolymer, PEEK, and Nylon components that make up multi-lumen catheters, as well as fluoropolymer heat shrink that provides insulation and lubricity to electrocautery “hot” biopsy forceps that a gastroenterologist might use to collect a tissue sample. That sample is then sent to a pathology lab where it is analyzed, tested, and ultimately diagnosed in vitro.

The takeaway is that the medical community is heavily reliant on research advancements made possible by in vitro diagnostics; however, the precursor to many of these tests lies in the undeniably instrumental role of the procedures and devices used to reliably and precisely collect the test specimens.

Devices and associated polymer componentry are not designed nor selected serendipitously. Clinicians, medical device design engineers and polymer suppliers are all important pieces of a dynamic puzzle. Material selection, device design, and clinical feedback are a process of continuous improvement that is paramount in advancing patient care.

GI/Endoscopy is just one sector in which polymer science is contributing to and enabling the advancement of in vitro diagnostics. Emerging markets like diabetes management, women’s health/infertility, tissue engineering, and pharmaceuticals are just a few additional areas where IVD plays an important role that are benefiting from advancements in polymer science. The material suppliers are committed to innovation, which results in next generation medical devices and therapies that are critical to the advancement of IVD and, in turn, further perpetuate the need for newer technology.

The worlds of minimally invasive surgery and IVD are codependent to an arguable extent. While most people may not immediately see a polymer supplier as part of the IVD market, such a supplier does play an important role and contribution in unique developments in the space. Somewhere right now there’s a scientist studying the pathophysiology of cancer cells in a tissue sample; a polymer supplier may have helped deliver that sample.