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Biomplants Could Soon Replace Metal Nails in Mending Broken Bones

Update Date: Apr 02, 2013 04:38 PM EDT

New technology may minimize surgery after sustaining a broken bone injury.

Commonly, patients who have suffered a severe broken bone injury undergo surgeries requiring a two part operation: first inserting metal nails in order to mend the bone and then extracting them once the bone has healed. Those days may soon be over with study of bioimplants.

Researchers Jose Ramon Sarasua and Aitor Larrañaga, from the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, are working on a biodegradable polymer that could gradually disappear on its own as a broken bone begins to mend. The researchers have been synthesizing and shaping tailor-made bioimplants, combining polymers and bioglass.

 "This obviates the need for the second operations required nowadays to remove nails and other parts that are inserted in order to somehow support the bones in major breaks above a critical size, with all the advantages that has from a whole range of perspectives," commented Sarasua.

Polymers alone are too soft, so the combination of bioglass created a more stable duo. Bioglass is a bioactive agent which helps the bone regenerate. Together both the bioglass and the polymer create a tough composite that is biodegradable.

The composite is created using a heated thermoplastic process, which proved to have lower thermal stability than other tools without bioglass. Therefore, researchers are still working to perfect the thermal stability by chemically transforming the bioglass surface in order to create many protective layers to prevent damage to the polymer.

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

Sarasua and Larrañaga's findings have been published in the journal of Polymer Degradation and Stability

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