’Glass and plastic implants to repair broken bones’

PTI Washington | Updated on April 03, 2013 Published on April 03, 2013

Scientists are developing novel implants made up of a glass and plastic mix that can hold bones together and dissolve later when the implants are not needed anymore.

The implants could make the steel pins that are often employed to hold the bones together after fracture a thing of past, and reduce the number of surgeries patients with big breaks have to go through.

Researchers Jose Ramon Sarasua and Aitor Larranaga, from the materials engineering department of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, have measured the effect that bioglass has on the thermal degradation of polymers currently used in medicine.

Metal nails or other components are often inserted to help bone breaks to mend. So, once the bone has mended, a second operation has to be performed to extract these components. The aim of these new materials or implants is, among other things, to obviate the need for the second operation.

Researchers are synthesising and shaping tailor-made bioimplants. The main component, on the whole, tends to be a biodegradable polymer, in other words, one that will gradually disappear as the bone occupies its own place.

As the polymer is too soft, bioglass was added to the polymer in this piece that helps the bone to regenerate and gives the polymer tough mechanical properties.

The biodegradable polymer/bioglass composite system is stiffer and tougher than the polymer alone.

These composite systems can be manufactured by means of thermoplastic processes that use heat, and therefore it is important to study how these materials respond to heat.

However, the biodegradable polymer/bioglass composite systems were found to have a lower thermal stability compared with the systems without bioglass.

Researchers are proposing that a chemical transformation of the bioglass surface be made by means of plasma. So by creating protective layers for the bioglass particles, the reaction to the polymer is prevented and so the final product remains undamaged.

“These composites that have a biodegradable polymer base are candidates with a bright future in mending broken bones or in regenerating bone defects,” said Sarasua.

In fact, after the material has temporarily substituted the bone and encouraged it to regenerate, it gradually disappears as the bone returns to its proper place, according to the study published in the journal Polymer Degradation and Stability.

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Published on April 03, 2013
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