15 November 2010, Milan – Narrow fabrics machinery manufacturer Comez has developed an innovative electronic double needle bar warp knitting machine for use in an Italian regional government funded biomedical textiles project. The Panagenesi project aims to help cure diabetes by optimizing the implanting of human pancreatic islands through the use of fibrin scaffold to aid in the success of pancreatic transplants.
Panagenesi is financed by the Region of Lombardy and is being developed by five organisations which bring together their respective know-how and multi-sector expertise. Among the research partners are three Italian manufacturers operating in the textile sector: Torcitura di Menaggio, a silk yarn twisting company; Gaetano Rossini Holding, which specializes in the production of 3D fabrics; and Comez, based in Cilavegna (PV), a global leader in the manufacture of narrow fabric technology machinery.
The manufacturers are pooling their efforts with Stazione Sperimentale per La Seta [Experimental Silk Centre], one of Italy’s renowned research centres specializing in the textile sector, and Milan’s Niguarda Ca’ Granda hospital, which is said to be Italy’s most important medical research centre in the field of histotherapy, focusing on in-vitro regeneration of human tissue.
Also involved in the project is the Diabetes Research Center at the University of Miami in Florida, a world renowned centre researching and experimenting with treatments for diabetes patients, headed by an Italian researcher, Dr. Camillo Ricordi.
According to Panagenesi, the first successful transplant of pancreatic stem cells occurred in September 2005, from the bone marrow of a deceased donor to a woman with diabetes. The procedure was performed in Florida by Camillo Ricordi, head of the cell transplant division at the University of Miami. The transplanting of pancreatic islands is said to represent one of the possible treatments for curing a specific type of diabetes, and is generating interest in the scientific community for the clinical successes obtained thus far and concrete prospects for future improvements.
There are said to be numerous advantages associated with the transplanting of islands with respect to that of the pancreas altogether, however a variety of issues must still be resolved, one of which is related to the difficulty of transplanted islands in taking root. Improving the process through which islands take root today is said to represent an important research sector, and the strategies being proposed include the use of molecules which reduce inflammation in the implant area.
Panagenesi says that fibrin, a protein extracted from silk, has been studied extensively by tissular engineering for biomedical applications due to its biocompatibility, slow degradability and considerable mechanical properties.
“Today, fibrin can be modelled into a variety of forms (film, fibre, netting, weaves, membranes, yarns and sponges), and has demonstrated significant support and adhesion capacities for various types of cells, promoting the repairing of live tissue. Furthermore, its molecular and surface characteristics make it highly biocompatible, and its implanting causes a reduced incidence of inflammation,” a spokesperson for the project said.
The aim of the Panagenesi project is to optimize the rooting of islands in the transplant site through the use of fibrin variable circular section scaffolds, consequently reducing the number of pancreatic islands necessary for the transplant’s full success and prolongation of their function over time.
The scaffold is essentially a tubular textile article with a small diameter, comprising a sequence of lobed structures (narrowed sections alternating with broader sections), with a variable cross-section and three-dimensional type internal structure (internal criss-crossing), produced using fibrin yarns.
For the manufacture of the tubular textile, Comez has designed an innovative electronic double needle bar warp knitting machine, with a working width of 800mm, in gauge 20 (needles per inch), with 8 knitting bars for independently controlled pattern making. The knitting bars, finished product take-down and yarn feeders, are all controlled by versatile electronic actuators which are said to provide excellent dynamic performance and positioning accuracy.
New fields of application for warp knitting
According to machine builder Comez, the machine opens up new fields of application for warp knitting technology by applying the most advanced mechanical and electronic technologies, being capable of operating at a very high accuracy rate, by processing yarns of various types, structure and composition and by having a sophisticated construction design, whilst being flexible in its operation and versatile in the multiple textile structures it can create.
The machine is said to be especially suited for the production of complex articles that can find applications in a variety of medical/hospital fields and in technical and industrial sectors in general.
The double needle bar machine can create spacer (3D) fabrics comprising two external fabrics forming the two faces of the fabric itself, bound by an internal structure. The possibility of distancing the two needle bars allows for the gap between the two external fabrics to be increased or decreased.
The variability of the circular section 3D tubular article for the Panagenesi project is obtained by modifying the interlacing movement which constitutes the fabric’s structure and by varying the feeding of the yarns and number of stitches per centimetre. The positive feeding of the yarns allows for the processing of very fine yarns such as those made from fibrin where very little resistance to mechanical action is encountered.