A new research shows that a new synthetic material could be the future of reconstructive surgery. The hyperelastic bone or HB can be put under the skin in order to help new bone grow on it. Doctors can also use it to entirely replace a natural bone. The material has not been tested on human subjects yet, but early animal tests show amazing results.
What it is
The hyperelastic bone is made out of a mineral called hydroxyapatite. This mineral is a form of calcium which can be found inside bones. Doctors are already using it for reconstructive surgeries. The only problem with this material was that its very brittle texture could not be used to entirely replace bones. So researchers mixed it with a polymer. This added more flexibility to it. After this, they used a 3D printer to create a bone graft and tested it.
Ramille Shah, an assistant professor of materials science at Northwestern University, said that when they tested it, they were very surprised to observe the fact that the graft bounced back to its original form. Frankly, you can do whatever you want with this elastic bone. It can be cut, folded, pressed or rolled. Doctors will no longer need stitches to fill up areas that have no bone. It is also like a sponge: very porous and absorbent. And this is exactly the way a natural bone should be, because blood vessels need to grow in the area after the surgery.
Scientists have tested this new amazing material in many ways. They placed stem cells into some scaffolds made from this material. They were amazed when they saw that the cells were growing on them and also making their own minerals. Another experiment consisted of implanting the material under a mouse’s skin. These cells also responded very good, with no inflammations or immunity problems.
But even these small tests were successful, many larger experiments are needed in order to confirm its use. Scientists will need to reproduce them on bigger animals. But the most important test is the human one. They hope that those will be possible to do in five-years-time. This material is considered cheap to produce as it is synthetic. The 3D print aspect of it is especially relevant because it can be manufactured according to the specific needs of various patients. It is also very easy to store (room temperature will do just fine) and ship. The material is usable for almost a year after it has been manufactured.
The easy shipping part is very important because the material can be sent to many countries and hospitals ahead of time. They can store it and use it when it is necessary. This is especially relevant for those developing countries which maybe do not have access to printing machines. They can receive the material and then help their patients with no problem.
All in all, it seems like the future is upon us. It is a good thing that science is discovering new ways of helping people and keeping them healthier for a longer period of time. With a little bit of help, maybe we’ll even end up living longer. We’ll have to wait and see.
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