Utilization of flax fibers for biomedical applications

Sophie A. A. X. Michel, Ruben R. M. Vogels, Nicole D. Bouvy, Menno L. W. Knetsch, Nynke M. S. van den Akker, Marion J. J. Gijbels, Cees van der Marel, Jan Vermeersch, Daniel G. M. Molin, Leo H. Koole*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Over the past decades, a large number of animal-derived materials have been introduced for several biomedical applications. Surprisingly, the use of plant-based materials has lagged behind. To study the feasibility of plant-derived biomedical materials, we chose flax (Linum usitatissimum). Flax fibers possess excellent physical-mechanical properties, are nonbiodegradable, and there is extensive know-how on weaving/knitting of them. One area where they could be useful is as implantable mesh structures in surgery, in particular for the repair of incisional hernias of the abdominal wall. Starting with a bleached flax thread, a prototype mesh was specifically knitted for this study, and its cytocompatibility was studied in vitro and in vivo. The experimental data revealed that application of flax in surgery first requires a robust method to remove endotoxins and purify the flax fiber. Such a method was developed, and purified meshes did not cause loss of cell viability in vitro. In addition, endotoxins determined using limulus amebocyte lysate test were at acceptable levels. In vivo, the flax meshes showed only mild inflammation, comparable to commercial polypropylene meshes. This study revealed that plant-derived biomaterials can provide a new class of implantable materials that could be used as surgical meshes or for other biomedical applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-487
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research Part B-applied Biomaterials
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • flax
  • implantable mesh
  • biocompatibility/soft tissue
  • cell-material interactions
  • fiber

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