Numerous polymeric biomaterials are implanted each year in human bodies. Among them, drug delivery devices are potent novel powerful therapeutics for diseases which lack efficient treatments. Controlled release systems are in direct and sustained contact with the tissues, and some of them degrade in situ. Thus, both the material itself and its degradation products must be devoid of toxicity. The knowledge and understanding of the criteria and mechanisms determining the biocompatibility of biomaterials are therefore of great importance. The classical tissue response to a foreign material leads to the encapsulation of the implant, which may impair the drug diffusion in the surrounding tissue and/or cause implant failure. This tissue response depends on different factors, especially on the implantation site. Indeed, several organs possess a particular immunological status, which may reduce the inflammatory and immune reactions. Among them, the central nervous system is of particular interest, since many pathologies still need curative treatments. This review describes the classical foreign body reaction and exposes the particularities of the central nervous system response. The recent in vivo biocompatibility studies of implanted synthetic polymeric drug carriers are summarized in order to illustrate the behavior of different classes of polymers and the methodologies used to evaluate their tolerance. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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