Biomaterials innovations for the future: unveiling the ten most captivating areas for advancements – CAS report 2023

The discussed report Biomaterials innovations for the future: unveiling the ten most captivating areas for advancements was prepared by CAS, a Division of the American Chemical Society and Westlake University, China and published on 25th July, 2023. The report discusses various biomaterials being developed for medical applications and describes how biomaterials have been proven to be useful in medical implants, tissue healing and regeneration, as well as in molecular probes, biosensors, and advanced drug delivery systems. The report also notes that the biomaterials domain is poised for even greater heights, with cutting-edge innovations in automation, computing, and artificial intelligence on the horizon.

The document presents an analytical methodology that was used to identify the ten most promising material types in the field of biomaterials innovation. The methodology involved shortlisting emerging phrases and creating focused search queries for individual subtopics. The authors then analysed publication trends in journals and patents, highlighted diverse applications, and shed light on the rapid development of specific properties or substances. The report also includes figures and tables that provide a visual representation of the data analysed. The objective of the report is to provide a comprehensive overview of the evolving landscape in this field and offer valuable insights for future directions.

In the report, 10 biomaterial groups have been identified as the most promising areas of development, and below is a brief description of each of them:


Hydrogels are soft materials composed of three-dimensional polymeric networks that can absorb and retain high amounts of water. They have drawn considerable attention from researchers due to their wide range of applications, including drug delivery, tissue engineering, and biosensors. The growth of hydrogels across six applications has been significant over the last two decades: smart materials, advanced drug delivery, tissue engineering, antimicrobials, bioelectronic materials, and brain-machine interface.

Antimicrobial materials

Antimicrobials are agents used to kill microorganisms and are classified as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, and antiparasitics, depending on the type of organism they target. The report highlights the critical role of nanomaterials in antimicrobial activity, with nanoparticles being successfully employed as carriers of agents targeting bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. The report also mentions the emerging trends in materials like polymers, antimicrobial peptides, and hydrogels, which have shown promising growth in the past two decades.

Lipid nanoparticles

LNPs are nano-sized particles surrounded by a lipid bilayer membrane and are used as a drug delivery platform for efficient delivery of hydrophobic or hydrophilic drugs, including small molecules and various complex biologicals such as proteins and nucleic acids to the target cell. The report highlights the recent successful use of lipid nanoparticles as a vital component in COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, where they played a key role in effectively protecting and transporting mRNA to cells, reinforcing their applicability in drug delivery. The report also mentions the different types of LNPs, such as solid lipid nanoparticles, nanostructured lipid carriers, and cubosomes, and their advantages and limitations. The report suggests that LNPs have emerged as promising drug delivery platforms, but certain limitations, such as the use of high quantities of synthetic lipids, especially in the cationic LNPs, can lead to toxicity. Therefore, these should be replaced by LNPs with lesser quantities and safer lipids.


Exosomes are extracellular vesicles that play a crucial role in intercellular communication and are involved in various physiological and pathological processes. The report highlights the properties and advantages of exosomes, such as their ability to cross biological barriers, their stability in circulation, and their potential as diagnostic markers. The report also mentions the different types of cargo that exosomes carry, such as nucleic acids, peptides, proteins, and metabolites, and their potential applications in drug delivery, regenerative medicine, and cancer therapy. The report suggests that exosomes have emerged as a topic of continued scientific interest, as revealed by the exponential growth in journal publications pertaining to exosomes over the years.


Bioinks are natural or synthetic materials used in three-dimensional bioprinting, primarily in the form of cell-laden hydrogels. The report highlights the fabrication of bioink materials, which has allowed the creation of complex biological constructs with desired biological and biochemical environments. The report also mentions the most reported bioink materials, such as collagen, stem cells, transcription factors, fibroblasts, and extracellular matrix, and their potential applications in tissue/organ regeneration studies. The report suggests that bioinks have emerged as a promising tool for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, with the potential to revolutionize the field of personalized medicine.

Programmable biomaterials

Programmable biomaterials are dynamic biomaterials that can change their properties and shapes based on user signal input in response to stimuli or by sensing a change in their immediate environment. The report highlights the interest in programmable biomaterials, which are considered next-generation biomaterials, and their ability to respond to external stimuli, enabling the designing of intelligent or “live” devices. The report also mentions the most extensively used materials, such as shape memory polymers (SMPs), which can recover their original shape from a deformed temporary shape when exposed to a specific stimulus. The report suggests that programmable biomaterials have emerged as a promising tool for designing intelligent devices and have the potential to revolutionize the field of biomaterials.

Protein-based materials

Protein-based biomaterials are natural polymers made up of amino acids, such as silk, collagen, fibrin, keratin, elastin, and resilin. The report highlights the biocompatibility, bioabsorbability, and biodegradability of those biomaterials. The report also mentions the molecular design and artificial production of protein-based materials, as well as their potential applications in tissue engineering and stem cell bioengineering. The report suggests that protein-based materials have emerged as a promising tool for developing multifunctional materials and have the potential to revolutionize the field of biomaterials. Protein-based biomaterials have a wide range of potential applications, including tissue engineering, stem cell bioengineering, drug delivery, wound healing, and the development of skin and vascular grafts, elastic cartilage, and injectable fillers.

Self-healing biomaterials

Self-healing materials are those that can repair minor damages resulting from prolonged mechanical wear, which increases the longevity of the material, negates the requirement for maintenance and replacement, and reduces waste. In the biomedical field, this translates to sustained functional performance of medical implants, scaffolds, devices, and biosensors. The field of self-healing biomaterials has grown steadily in the last two decades and is primarily dominated by materials such as hydrogels, hydrogel composites, and polymers including biopolymers. An impressive example of the utilization of these biomaterials are electronic skin (E-skin) or ionic skin (I-skin), which are types of smart skin composed of artificial materials capable of mimicking properties of natural skin.

Bioelectronic materials

One of the areas covered in the report is bioelectronics, which refers to devices and implants that can be integrated into biological systems such as the human body. These devices range from wearable devices such as smartwatches, sensors, and monitoring devices used in healthcare settings to implantable monitoring devices. Materials used in bioelectronics include hydrogels, carbon-based materials, nanomaterials, semiconductors, and polymer films. Examples of bioelectronic applications include electrodes, biosensors, neural network modeling, and signal transduction.

Sustainable biomaterials

Approximately 9-13% of the global solid waste consists of high molecular weight fossil-based plastics, with the packaging industry being a significant contributor to plastic waste, posing a substantial environmental challenge. These plastics are characterized by toxicity, non-biodegradability, and persistence in water and soil, leading to what is commonly referred to as “white pollution” and presenting health risks due to the release of enhancing chemicals. Even in various sectors like healthcare, disposable items such as masks, gloves, and packaging materials significantly contribute to environmental pollution, a problem that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a growing demand for the development of sustainable materials not only for personal protective equipment (PPE) but also for medical and laboratory supplies, aiming to address these environmental concerns. Researchers have been exploring alternative materials classified based on their sources (bio-based or fossil fuel-based) and degradability (biodegradable or non-biodegradable). The term “bioplastics” has emerged to encompass materials produced through biological processes or derived from renewable resources. Achieving economic viability is crucial for plastic alternatives to gain widespread acceptance and effectively reduce global plastic waste. Balancing sustainability with affordability is essential to make a significant impact on this issue.


Biomaterials offer vast potential across multiple disciplines, including medicine, biology, chemistry, and engineering, with applications ranging from medical implants to drug delivery systems. Commercial companies are actively investing in biomaterial research and development, leading to remarkable progress in this field. Various sectors like biosensors, tissue engineering, medical devices, and biodegradable materials contribute to the transformative journey of biomaterials. As automation, computing, and artificial intelligence continue to advance, the biomaterial domain is poised for even greater innovation and growth in the future.

Author: Agnieszka Piegat



Biomaterials, Hydrogels, Proteins, Nanoparticles, Smart Polymers, Biodegradable, Perspective