In addition, the researchers are studying the biological basis of the condition and developing technologies they hope will delay bone growth and eliminate the need for additional operations. In one project, Coulter Department research scientist Rene Olivares-Navarrete and Williams are examining individuals with craniosynostosis to identify genes that influence suture fusion. Determining the genes that control suture closure may help the researchers identify potential therapeutic targets to prevent premature suture fusion.
The research team has also designed a gel to be injected into the gap created between skull bones during the first surgery. The material -- called a hydrogel because it contains a significant amount of water -- would deliver specific proteins to the area to delay, but not prevent, bone growth.
"The hydrogel cross-links spontaneously because of a reaction between a polyethylene-glycol monomer and a cross-linking molecule, allowing for polymerization without the use of chemical initiators or the production of free radicals," explained Hermann.
Preliminary results in a mouse model of cranial development indicate that the gel, developed in collaboration with Coulter Department associate professor Niren Murthy, can be injected into a gap between skull bones, firm up rapidly and not injure underlying soft tissues or impair bone healing. These pre-clinical results were presented at the Society for Biomaterials Annual Meeting in April.
Both Boyan and Williams see promise in using these technologies to improve the treatment of children with craniosynostosis and eliminate additional operations sometimes needed to treat the condition.
"During the initial surgery, injecting the gel may reduce the operation's severity if it eliminates the need for plates and screws to hold the skull bones in
|Contact: Abby Robinson|
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News