Issue Date: July 14, 2008
I take issue with the suggestion in "Kureha's Gamble" that the Japanese company Kureha is the first to develop technology for making high-molecular-weight polyglycolic plastics and films (C&EN, April 28, page 28).
The article describes Kureha's "breakthrough" method of polymerizing glycolide, the dimer of glycolic acid, as a way to get around the problem of hydrolysis. In fact, American Cyanamid discovered this approach in the early 1960s in its Stamford, Conn., labs. The company filed for patent letters on the process and received numerous granted patents on both the process and, in many cases, special polyglycolic acid (PGA) polymer compositions and uses.
In 1962, this polymer was used to develop the first synthetic absorbable suture, which was marketed as Dexon by American Cyanamid's Davis & Geck subsidiary. PGA can be extruded into strong fibers that degrade into water-soluble monomers that are adsorbed harmlessly in the body. Implantable medical devices have been produced with PGA as well, including anastomosis rings, pins, rods, plates, and screws. The key original American Cyanamid inventors were Edward E. Schmitt, Rocco A. Polistina, and Martin Epstein.
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