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Synthetic Bio-material Viable Option for Bone Replacement Following Cancer Surgery

Bone defects resulting from cancer have presented a challenge to the medical community for decades. Cancer surgery often results in bone defects that require filling. Surplus bone material is limited in the human body. Often filling material is collected from the patient’s iliac crest and utilized to repair the defect. Surgeons may lack necessary bone to fill large defects. A quality synthetic bio-material could be an excellent alternative.

An inorganic chemistry professor at Universitat Duisburg-Essen, Mathias Epple, has been experimenting with bone, seashells and teeth for years. The professor and three doctoral students are working on a research project in close collaboration with physicians, utilizing calcium phosphate in the form of nanocrystals. Calcium phosphate is an inert mineral located in bones; therefore, the body readily accepts the new material. The innovative discovery leads to enhanced bone formation.

Epple’s team is facing three additional problems with the synthetic biomaterial, including high risk of infection, mechanical instability and slow healing time. The researchers have developed a bone repair adhesive. A layer of nucleic acid (DNA), serving as an adhesive, is spread across the surface of the synthetic nanocrystals of calcium phosphate. Nanoparticles are absorbed by cells as the paste is inserted into the bone. DNA is discharged provoking the delivery of two healing proteins, as the calcium phosphate dissipates, supplying the bone with crucial nutrients. The protein important for healthy bone structure is BMP-7 and the protein responsible for the development of new blood vessels, VEGF-A.

The calcium phosphate nanocrystals operate as a balsam for the bones. The nanoparticle paste results in improved healing. The balsam has proved successful with three dissimilar categories of cells. The future outlook for the synthetic biomaterial is promising, since nanoparticles are constantly fueling the surrounding cells. 

 

*Photo courtesy of DNMT1 by Enzymlogic at Flickr's Creative Commons.

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