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Oct 13, 2016
 |  BC Innovations  |  Product R&D

Elastic bones

A 3-D printable scaffold for bone repair

A group at Northwestern University has created a "hyperelastic bone" scaffold to address the need for a bone-inducing material that is easily manufactured, low cost and easy to manipulate during surgery. While the short-term goal is to create a matrix that can be used alone, the porous property of the biomaterial could allow the team to incorporate BMP2 or new osteogenic growth factors with better safety profiles.

The scaffold, described in a Science Translational Medicinestudy last month, was developed by Ramille Shah, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the university, whose goal was to find a solution to the manifold problems caused by the products marketed or in development for bone repair.

Shah told BioCentury that while bone defects are often fixed using autografts, in which a surgeon takes bone from one part of the body and shapes it to fit the new location, the procedure is painful and takes a long time, and the bone is difficult to trim.

An alternative is to use bone void fillers or temporary scaffolds, which serve as a platform for stem cells that can synthesize new bone. Most utilize hydroxyapatite or calcium phosphate-based ceramics mixed with elastic polymers, which have components that are similar to bone and are osteogenic. "The hypothesis is that the body will recognize it as natural and then start to model," said Shah.

However, the disadvantage of calcium phosphate-based products is that they are highly brittle, which limits the "surgical friendliness," she added.

In some cases the material is created in a granular form which "gets everywhere" during surgery, said Shah, and in other cases it's made as a scaffold that needs to be cut to size during an operation. Other approaches involve making a putty that can be compressed into place, but those materials are often not porous enough, which means that stem cells can't properly gain access and fully integrate with them.

Instead, Shah addressed the problem as one of tissue engineering.

"Our work is to design and engineer material that when placed in the body it degrades but induces the body to regenerate natural tissue. Over time, the material will degrade more and more, but the body will compensate by just depositing new and natural tissue," she told BioCentury.

The goal was to make a substance that could be rapidly manufactured for applications ranging from spinal fusion to facial reconstruction, and could be made into scaffolds with complex biologically relevant shapes (see "Figure: Not for Halloween").

Using materials that mimic natural...

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