A novel foam is being developed that could promote the regeneration of skull bone lost from injury, surgery or birth defects.
Researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY, USA) and Texas A&M University (TX, USA) are developing a new bioactive foam that can be used to replace skull bone lost from injury, surgery or birth defects. The new material is malleable once washed in warm saline so can be fitted to any shape skull. Once implanted, specially coated pores within the foam attract bone cells, naturally regenerating bone to replace the foam, which dissolves over time.
The bioactive foam is created by coating a shape memory polymer in bioactive polydopamine and was created by associate professor Melissa Grunlan (Texas A&M University), who led the research.
“This is like trying to fill in a missing puzzle piece with the wrong piece,” commented Grunlan. “These bone defects can cause tremendous functional problems and aesthetic issues for individuals, so it was recognized that a better treatment would make a big impact.”
Professor of biomedical engineering Mariah Hahn (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) will test various formulations of the foam in vitro, recommending the most successful formulations for further pre-clinical testing and providing insights on why some foams are more or less successful in promoting bone growth.
“We want to find the ideal formulation that maintains the amazing shape memory properties of the foam while providing the optimal environment for stimulating new bone formation,” said Hahn.
This new method would have advantages over current techniques used today due to the ability to manipulate the foam to particular gaps. This manipulation isn’t possible with bone grafts, which are the most common treatment used today.
“A moldable bone-promoting scaffold could have broad uses if it’s successful. It takes advantage of the body’s own healing ability and it’s a low-cost ‘off the shelf’ solution that would not need to be pre-tailored to the individual defect” Hahn concluded.
Written by Adam Tarring