The Role of Polymer
Science in IVD
By Josh Ridley, Business Development Manager –
When it comes to in vitro diagnostics (IVD), chances are a company like Zeus ( www.zeusinc.com) 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 elec-
trocautery “hot” biopsy forceps that a gastroen-
terologist 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 communi-
ty 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 componen-
try are not designed nor selected serendipitous-
ly. 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 ad-
vancements 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 immedi-
ately 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 can-
cer cells in a tissue sample; a polymer supplier
may have helped deliver that sample. MDT
In vitro diagnostics technologies involve the testing of samples outside of
the body. However, the devices that are utilized within the body to cap-
ture those samples are significant to the overall success of a testing proce-
dure. This article looks at the role of polymer science in the capture and
delivery of those samples to ensure a successful outcome.