Artificial bone, made from human stem cells and a new biodegradable plastic, could soon be used to heal shattered limbs.
British scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton have spent seven years developing the new material, which can be fitted into broken bones to strengthen them and encourage regrowth.
Over time, the plastic dissolves as the implant is replaced by newly grown bone.
"Fractures and bone loss due to trauma or disease are a significant clinical and socioeconomic problem,” noted Richard Oreffo, a professor at the University of Southampton. "This collaboration between chemistry and medicine has identified unique candidate materials that support human bone stem cell growth and allow bone formation. Our collaborative strategy offers significant therapeutic implications."
The research, which was detailed in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, involved laboratory studies and animal testing. The team now hopes to begin human clinical trials.
"We are confident that this material could soon be helping to improve the quality of life for patients with severe bone injuries, and will help maintain the health of an ageing population," said Mark Bradley, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Chemistry.
"We were able to make and look at a hundreds of candidate materials and rapidly whittle these down to one which is strong enough to replace bone and is also a suitable surface upon which to grow new bone."
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