Recovering from bone fractures and breaks can be a long hard slog. Now, a team of scientists led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have developed a new type of synthetic bone graft that boosts the body's own ability to regenerate bone tissue and could produce better outcomes for patients. The research is published in the Journal of Materials Science.
Bone grafting is an advanced surgical procedure that helps replace missing bone in complex or dangerous fractures or where new hips or knees have been implanted. The patient's bone usually needs some form of "scaffold" in order to grow back correctly and new bone is needed to act as a guide. Typically, doctors use transplants of the patient's own bone or that from a donor although synthetic bone is an increasingly viable option. The transplanted bone is usually replaced by natural regrowth within a few months.
Natural bone is porous and this intricate natural texture is tricky to match in synthetic materials. Researchers from QMUL's School of Engineering and Materials Science (SEMS) worked on the pore structure of the graft to attempt to mimic natural bone tissue. The new research found that this new type of graft called Inductigraft was able to guide bone tissue regeneration in as little as four weeks.
"Our challenge is to develop a graft that's as clever as bone," says Dr. Karin Hing, of QMUL's Institute of Bioengineering and co-author of the study. "For this synthetic graft, we looked at the mechanics of how bone adapts to its environment and changed both the chemical and physical composition of the graft, specifically how the holes within the structure are placed and interconnected."
The researchers found that, by eight to twelve weeks, the performance of the new graft on its own was as good as the previous method of mixing synthetic materials with the patient's own bone — called autograft. "This new study," says Hing, "has real implications for anyone suffering from any sort of skeletal injury, and for surgeons in particular. At the moment the preference is to use the patients' own tissue to create or enhance bone grafts, however our results show that Inductigraft can be just as effective, with the advantage that patient doesn't have to undergo additional surgery to harvest the autograft."