'Injectable Bone' That Helps Fractures Harden Within Minutes Developed

by Hannah Punitha on Dec 9 2008 12:12 PM

British researchers have developed a material which can be squirted into broken bones where it hardens within minutes.

Its makers, from Nottingham University, said that the toothpaste-like substance forms a biodegradeable scaffold over which the body's own bone grows.

According to the experts, the revolutionary material could help remove the need for painful bone grafts in many cases.

The brainchild of Professor Kevin Shakesheff, from the University of Nottingham, the "injectable bone" won a prestigious medical innovation award last week.

The plus point of the 'injectable bone' over traditional ones is that it cements is in the hardening process.

While conventional cements give off heat as they harden, killing surrounding cells, and making them unusable in some parts of the body, this polymer does not.

The material has the texture of toothpaste at room temperature, and when it rises to body temperature, this is enough to trigger the hardening reaction.

According to Professor Shakesheff, it was easy to inject into the right part of the body without a surgical incision, unlike bone grafts, which use bone taken from another part of the patient's body, such as the hip, to plug a damaged gap.

"Not only does the patient need to be opened up, he or she is left with a damaged area - using this would avoid that. We believe we can just insert the needle, follow it to the right spot and inject the polymer, which will fill the desired area, and set as hard as the bone on either side," BBC quoted him, as saying.

"Because the material does not heat up, surrounding bone cells survive and can grow," he added.

However, some limitations remain - even though the polymer is as hard as bone within minutes, the join between itself and old bone is weaker, and a leg fracture fixed this way would still need metal pins to stop it shearing apart when the patient tried to walk.