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Breakthrough in Dentistry and Orthopedics?
August 26, 2010   
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Scientists at the Medical University of Lublin in eastern Poland have developed a new composite biomaterial to regenerate bone tissue. Clinical trials on animals show that the material may mark a breakthrough in dentistry and orthopedics, the scientists say.

Work on the project is still in progress and it is too early to announce a worldwide success, the scientists say. But the material may prove to be a milestone in dental surgery and orthopedics.

The composite is already protected by a patent in Poland and an application for an international patent has been filed. Several pharmaceutical corporations are interested in the invention, the scientists say.

The inventors

The inventors are a team of scientists from the Biochemistry and Biotechnology Department at the Medical University of Lublin working under the guidance of Prof. Grażyna Ginalska. They have conducted research on artificial bones for 10 years now and spent two years alone to produce the composite. They have been helped by researchers from the Faculty of Materials Engineering and Ceramics of the AGH University of Technology in Cracow. The research project has been partially funded from European Union funds under the Innovative Economy Operational Program.

Marrying organic with inorganic

The composite is a combination of sugar polymer, an organic material, and hydroxyapatite, an inorganic mineral. Hydroxyapatite has been used in medicine for years. What is new is that it has been combined with a polymer to produce a material with much greater plasticity, the scientists say.

When dry, the composite is hard but becomes soft when saturated with a special substance or even the patient’s blood. Then the composite may be cut with a scalpel or shaped by hand. These properties are important, the scientists say, because they make it possible to treat accident patients by inserting a piece of the composite into the empty space where bone is missing and shaping it appropriately in order to fully fill the gap. The composite grows into the bone. It is important that it does not contain any irritants or allergenic substances, the scientists say. As a result, the patient is not prone to complications and the reconstructed area heals well. The organic sugar polymer is broken down within the body and replaced with osteoblasts, or cells responsible for bone formation.

Clinical trials on animals show that the composite easily merges with bone tissue, according to the scientists.

The trials have been conducted by a team led by Izabela Polkowska, Ph.D., from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Life Sciences in Lublin. The composite has been used in dental surgery on animals treated at the clinic.

Dogs’ teeth, rabbit bones

Polkowska has used the composite, impregnated with an anti-bacterial drug, to close oronasal fistulas in dogs. The material has turned out to be effective—the effect of bone tissue regeneration became apparent after four months, according to Polkowska.

Additionally, the composite has been used to substitute for missing bone fragments in dogs’ skulls and teeth. Orthopedic tests have also been made—the composite has been used in place of missing thigh bone fragments in rabbits. The effect is excellent, according to Polkowska: the rabbits can jump and do not show any health problems.

If the trials on animals end in success, the researchers say they will be able to start clinical trials on people. They plan to apply for official permission to conduct such trials later this year. The researchers want to conduct the trials at the dentistry clinic of the Medical University of Lublin. The composite could be used to substitute for bone fragments missing due to cancer or it could be put into the tooth socket to support tooth implants.

The mechanical properties of the composite resemble those of spongy bone, the scientists say, and its compression strength is the same as that of human cartilage. The composite is easy to sterilize and can be impregnated with anti-bacterial agents, such as antibiotics and protein growth factors.

The scientists say they want their invention to enter production as soon as possible. Talks between the university and pharmaceutical companies are well advanced, according to the researchers. If any of these companies decides to invest in the invention, mass production of the artificial bone could start in two or three years, according to the researchers.

Ewa Dereń
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