Bone grafting is a surgical procedure undertaken by people who experience complex bone fractures. The process commonly involves harvesting bone from the patients themselves or acquiring the bone graft from a donor cadaver. Synthetic bone grafts have also been made, but some believe they are inferior to autogenous bone grafting. Now researchers from the Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak have created another version of synthetic bone grafts by combining cornstarch with volcanic ash clay. The researchers say that the preclinical studies show that the resulting plastic could replace the need to harvest actual bones from the patient or from a donor cadaver. They state that the biodegradable material could be used to heal bones in hundreds of thousands of patients requiring bone replacement, including following tumor removal, spinal fusion surgery or fractures.
The New Synthetic
The goal is to use the biodegradable graft material on its own without having to add any permanent hardware like metal or plastic implants that are often used to support and strengthen traditional bone grafts. Internal hardware can pose a challenge with respect to being a potential site for infection, and can complicate MRI and CT imaging tests. The polymer is reinforced with montmorillonite clay nanoparticles for strength and injected with carbon dioxide, giving the implant an appearance like that of porous rigid foam, similar to real bone. Since it is also biodegradable, the researchers says it will dissolve in the body within 18 months as the new bone forms and heals. As the new material is still in the preclinical stages, it will still have to face years more of studies to determine if it is suitable for human patients.
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