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Melissa Tate
Melissa Tate
Paul Trainor Chair of Biomedical Engineering

Interview with Melissa Tate

Fabric as protective tissue

Melissa Tate, a well-known scientist currently at the University of New South Wales in Australia, and her team of researchers have woven a fabric that mimics the protective tissue of bones. Tate spoke to Savita Verma about the confluence of biomedical engineering and textiles.

Describing Professor Melissa L  Knothe Tate-who along with her team have successfully woven a fabric which mimics the protective tissue enclosing bones called periosteum-just as a scientist will be inadequate since she is much more that that. That women often do not reach the heights in science as men do and that indigenous populations are often ignored and do not get their share in development, make her uneasy. As a scientist, Tate has worked on varied topics ranging from fundamental cell biology to regenerative technologies with an aim to translate these into applications to benefit patients. She has been a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Society for Mechanical Engineers and the Biomedical Engineering Society. Her new work in weaving a smart fabric has led to hopes for producing protective clothing and generating tearing joints in the future. Earlier, she has been instrumental in developing an implantable device which mimics the natural regenerative capabilities of periosteum. In trials with sheep, this device has been shown to hasten bone repair. Currently, Paul Trainor Chair of Biomedical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Australia, Tate speaks about her work and issues that are of concern to her.

TT: Your team has produced a material that mimics the body tissue covering bones. How did you get interested in this research? How long have you been working on this?

I have been studying the inner workings of the body since I was a child. As an undergraduate at Stanford University, I had the opportunity to join a research group of an orthopaedic pioneer at Stanford, Professor Dennis Carter. Having read all of Darwin, D'Arcy Thompson and Stephen Jay Gould's work I could get my hands on, working in the lab just fed my appetite to know how cells could be so smart even though they are brainless. I have been extremely fortunate to find stimulating and supportive environments and mentors who enabled me to grow intellectually and to constantly question things, such as Professor Stephan Perren, my mentor at the AO Research Institute in Davos, and Professor Peter Niederer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

TT: What was the challenge in producing this material?

The biggest challenge is reducing a big concept to a series of hands on tasks to "reduce the concept to practice". This is the difference between being a visionary and being an inventor. Both are important steps in creating so called "disruptive technologies" that open up new markets.

TT: I understand these artificial fibres are made up of an elastic material and silk. What is this elastic material and how did you choose these two?

The material can be manufactured from any material exhibiting gradients of elasticity and toughness, mimicking elastin and collagen. In fact, the material can be tuned for very specific applications, for example in the medical, transport or sports sectors.

Published on: 06/03/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.


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