Cyclohexanone, a common precursor in the production of nylon, has been implicated in what could be a variety of nasty outcomes arising from such things as kidney dialysis or heart surgery, where fluids are recirculated outside the body.
Symptoms like a loss of taste or memory, swelling and fatigue may occur because the chemical is leached from plastic tubing and catheters recirculating blood during the procedures, wrote Artin Shoukas of Johns Hopkins in a study published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Physiology.
After concluding the chemical was leaching from tubing, the team pumped a solution containing the chemical into rats, finding weaker heart contractions and less regulation of blood pressure.
They emphasized that the side effects are worth the risk. Shoukas himself became interested after finding that chocolate tasted like charcoal for months following his bypass. He loves chocolate and is grateful for the bypass.
Rather than just doing away with plastic tubing, medical device makers might want to look into coating the inside of tubes with some material that acts as a barrier between the plastic and the blood.
This would be especially useful for dialysis patients, who may have to undergo the procedure twice a week in order to maintain themselves.
In a completely separate study, meanwhile, a team of UCLA researchers wrote in Applied Physics Letters they are finding intriguing possibilities from spraying carbon nanotubes on an elastic substrate. The resulting material is highly elastic, very conductive, and could be useful in implants.
So just as scientists are finding unforeseen difficulties with some materials, they are simultaneously finding potential in new materials that might be used in the same applications. The same science that finds problems can also solve them.