A new plastic composite could be the future of bone repair therapies. The rigid material temporarily replaces the broken bone. Its biocompatibility enables stem cells to attach to it and regenerate the damaged tissue. It is also biodegradable and will slowly degrade over time to be replaced by newly grown bone …
After seven years of work, researchers at Southampton University and Edinburgh University have announced that they have developed a plastic polymer offering therapeutic properties.
The challenge was not an easy one to achieve. Their aim was to develop a compound which could help bone healing following a fracture or assist in bone regeneration for people with osteoporosis or arthritis.
After having tested hundreds of combinations of plastics, the scientists finally came across a good compromise: a biocompatible material which is sufficiently rigid and robust to replace the missing bone, and which then acts as a scaffold structure enabling stem cells from the patient's blood to attach to the material in order to regenerate the damaged tissue. Once the bone has started to form, the plastic begins to degrade to facilitate optimal healing over time.
The material was developed by blending three types of plastics, including the polycarbonate used in CDs, for instance. It is relatively cheap and can be rapidly produced, which makes its wide-scale use a plausible reality.
The aim now is to test the bioplastic in clinical trials in order to gauge its safety and efficacy on humans.