Navigation Links
In the lab, engineer's novel liquid provides a solid fix for broken bones

Here's the vision: an elderly woman comes into the emergency room after a fall. She has broken her hip. The orthopaedic surgeon doesn't come with metal plates or screws or shiny titanium ball joints. Instead, she pulls out a syringe filled with a new kind of liquid that will solidify in seconds and injects into the break. Over time, new bone tissue will take its place, encouraged by natural growth factors embedded in the synthetic molecules of the material.

Although still early in its development, the liquid is real. In the Brown engineering lab of professor Thomas Webster it's called TBL, for the novel DNA-like "twin-base linker" molecules that give it seemingly ideal properties. The biotech company Audax Medical Inc., based in Littleton, Mass., announced on Dec. 7 an exclusive license of the technology from Brown. It brands the technology as Arxis and sees similar potential for repairing broken vertebrae.

"The reason we're excited about this material is because it gets us away from metals," Webster said. "Metals are not in us naturally and they can have a lot of problems with surrounding tissues."

In some of his work, Webster employs nanotechnology to try to bridge metals to bone better than traditional bone cement. But TBL is an entirely new material, co-developed with longtime colleague and chemist Hicham Fenniri at the University of Alberta. Fenniri synthesized the molecules, while Webster's research has focused on ensuring that TBL becomes viable material for medical use.

The molecules are artificial, but made from elements that are no strangers to the body: carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. At room temperature their aggregate form is a liquid, but the material they form solidifies at body temperature. The molecules look like nanoscale tubes (billionths of a meter wide), and when they come together, it is in a spiraling ladder-shaped arrangement reminiscent of DNA or collagen. That natural structure makes it easy to integrate with bone tissue.

In the space within the nanotubes, the team, which includes graduate student Linlin Sun, has managed to stuff in various drugs including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, and bone growth factors, which the tubes release over the course of months. Even better, different recipes of TBL, or Arxis, can be chemically tuned to become as hard as bone or as soft as cartilage, and can solidify in seconds or minutes, as needed. Once it is injected, nothing else is needed.

"We really like the fact that it doesn't need anything other than temperature to solidify," Webster said. Other compounds that people have developed require exposure to ultraviolet light and cannot therefore be injected through a tiny syringe hole. They require larger openings to be created.

For all of TBL's apparent benefits, they have only been demonstrated in cow bone fragments in incubators on the lab bench top, Webster said. TBL still needs to be proven in vivo and, ultimately, in human trials. Part of the agreement with Audax will include support to continue the material's clinical development. Audax research and development director Whitney Sharp, a Brown alumna (Sc.B., 2008; Sc.M., 2009), is now working with Webster's group.

"They see the future where hopefully we will get to the point where we won't be implanting these huge pieces of metal into people," Webster said. "Instead we'll be implanting things through a needle that could be used to heal a hip that's more natural."


Contact: David Orenstein
Brown University

Related biology news :

1. UC San Diego bioengineers fill holes in science of cellular self-organization
2. Caltech engineers build firast-ever multi-input plug-and-play synthetic RNA device
3. Biomedical engineers detective work reveals antibiotic mechanism
4. Engineers create intelligent molecules that seek-and-destroy diseased cells
5. Iowa student engineers develop hand-held water sanitizer for a thirsty world
6. Ben-Gurion University engineers develop technique to help combat nuclear proliferation
7. LabRoots Launches Social Networking Site for Scientists & Engineers
8. Engineers develop method to disperse chemically modified graphene in organic solvents
9. Case Western Reserve University engineers hit pay dirt with clay mixture
10. New method developed by UC San Diego bioengineers gives regenerative medicine a boost
11. Vanderbilt engineers play key role in new DOE energy frontier research center
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/20/2015)... November 20, 2015 NXTD ) ... on the growing mobile commerce market and creator of ... Pereira , was recently interviewed on The RedChip ... on this weekend on Bloomberg Europe , Bloomberg ... --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... , Nov. 19, 2015  Based on its in-depth ... Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the 2015 Global Frost & ... Frost & Sullivan presents this award to the company ... to the needs of the market it serves. The ... meets and expands on customer base demands, the overall ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... -- Although some 350 companies are actively involved in molecular ... according to Kalorama Information. These include Roche Diagnostics, Hologic, Abbott ... of the 6.1 billion-dollar molecular testing market, according to ... Diagnostic s .    ... one company and only a handful of companies can ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... November 26, 2015 ... Market 2016 - 2020 report analyzes that automating ... and quality in long-term samples, minimizing manual errors, ... Automation minimizes manual errors such as mislabeling or ... Further, it plays a vital role in blood ...
(Date:11/25/2015)...  PharmAthene, Inc. (NYSE MKT: PIP) announced  today that ... plan (Rights Plan) in an effort to preserve the ... Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). ... of its NOLs could be substantially limited if the ... 382 of the Code. In general, an ownership change ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 2 nouvelles études permettent ... les différences entre les souches bactériennes retrouvées dans la ... des êtres humains . Ces recherches  ouvrent une nouvelle ... prise en charge efficace de l,un des problèmes ... chats .    --> 2 nouvelles études ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 Studies reveal the differences ... and pave the way for more effective treatment for one ...   --> --> ... problems in cats, yet relatively little was understood about the ... have been conducted by researchers from the WALTHAM Centre for ...
Breaking Biology Technology: