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Editorial [ Novel Biomaterials in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery Guest Editors: C. Mauli Agarwal and Joo Ong ]

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The fields of engineering, basic sciences, and medicine are rapidly converging when it comes to biomedical engineering. It was not too long ago that biomedical engineers were almost exclusively involved with designing imaging and other medical instrumentations, mainly from an engineering perspective; today scientists in this field come from various backgrounds and have added expertise such as cell/tissue culture and protein synthesis to their engineering armamentarium. A multidisciplinary approach has become imperative to solve the medical challenges ahead.

The use of biomaterials as implants in the human body has become a commonplace, with implants ranging from dental prosthetics to artificial knees and coronary stents. Even as the quality and complexity of these implants have increased, there has been a growing movement in the field of biomaterials to regenerate various diseased tissues instead of replacing them with man-made implants. Over the past 30 years, this effort has evolved into a field know as tissue engineering or regenerative medicine. Thus, the role of biomaterials in this field has changed from restoration of function to assisting in the re-growth of functional tissues. Consequently, some of the biggest challenges in the area of biomaterials lie at the interface of biology and materials. This special issue of the journal contains articles on tissue engineering from some of the foremost laboratories in the world and provides a glimpse of the cutting edge work in this very complex field.

Another significant challenge in the area of biomaterials is site-specific or targeted delivery of therapeutic materials such as drugs and genes. Systemic delivery often dilutes the amount of therapeutics needed at the required site while increasing the risk of adverse side effects. On the other hand, targeted systems can deliver high concentrations exclusively to the diseased site, thus increasing the efficacy and reducing the overall quantity of drug that has to be administered. Such systems are especially valuable in the fields of cardiology and oncology. Once again, we are fortunate that some of the leaders in the field have agreed to publish their latest research in this special issue.

The papers in this issue represent but a small cross-section of the kind of exciting and excellent research ongoing in the area of biomaterials. They also show the multidisciplinary nature of the work and we hope that the readers will be encouraged to seek collaborations and share their expertise with those in the field.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dean, College of Engineering The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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