New Technology: Artificial Bones

Most orthopaedic injuries are very handily fixed by our friendly neighborhood orthopaedic surgeons. But occasional patients have bony injuries so severe that they challenge even the best of them. Think motorcycle crashes, mangled extremities and bone loss.

Researchers at universities in Edinburgh and Southampton have developed an experimental product that may facilitate rebuilding these challenging injuries. They created a plastic polymer that is honeycombed with small holes. These holes allow blood to flow through it, enabling stem cells from the bone marrow to take up residence and rebuild bone. Once new bone has formed, the plastic slowly degrades, leaving only the patient’s own tissues.

This image show proteins from skeletal stem cells that have been cultured on a plastic scaffold

This new product has been tested successfully in animals, and work is underway to get approval for human testing.

Bottom line: Although many years away, this product may increase the number of limbs salvaged after mangling type injuries to the extremities.

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Reference:Discovery and Evaluation of a Functional Ternary Polymer Blend for Bone Repair: Translation from a Microarray to a Clinical Model.  Advanced Functional Materials ePub Jan 25, 2013.

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