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Plastic used to replace and regrow bone

By

February 8, 2013

A implantable material made from a blend of plastics has been developed to regrow damaged ...

A implantable material made from a blend of plastics has been developed to regrow damaged bones (Image: Shutterstock)

Over the past several years, a number of research institutes have been exploring the use of implants made from material with a scaffolding-like structure, as a means of regrowing bone at severe injury sites. Both MIT and Tufts University, for instance, have been working on collagen-based materials. Now, England’s University of Southampton has announced the development of a new type of bone-growing substance, made from plastic.

The Southampton material is inserted into broken bones, its honeycomb-shaped internal matrix allowing blood to flow through. Stem cells from the adjacent bone marrow will also make their way in, some of them attaching themselves to the material. Those cells will become bone cells, gradually accumulating and replacing the biodegradable plastic until nothing is left but newly-grown bone.

It’s the same principle by which the collagen-based materials work.

Co-led by Prof. Richard Oreffo, the research team used a new technique to mix and analyze hundreds of combinations of plastics. The final blend they chose, which consists of three non-toxic plastics, is reportedly light, robust, and has a surface that is able to support bone stem cell growth. The material has been tested on animals, with human trials now planned.

Scotland’s University of Edinburgh partnered with Southampton on the study, which took seven years. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

If the material does indeed prove effective in humans, it could perhaps even be used to create customized 3D-printed bone scaffolds, as pioneered by Washington State University.

Source: University of Southampton

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
3 Comments

That's incredible! This will surely help many sufferers of Leukemia, as now they could simply have the diseased bone completely replaced with a newly grown duplicate!

Onihikage
8th February, 2013 @ 10:51 pm PST

Plastic causes cancer why would you want to put it in your body?

Goddard
11th February, 2013 @ 09:27 am PST

@Goddard These plastics are chosen for their nontoxic nature and would not contain known carcinogens. However you should be advised that concentrated oxygen has been demonstrated to cause lung cancer in the same mice that were used to demonstrate plastics are cancerous.

VirtualGathis
12th February, 2013 @ 07:51 am PST
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