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Silk-based surgical implants could offer a better way to repair broken bones
Date:3/4/2014

is that it can stabilize and deliver bioactive components, so that plates and screws made of silk could actually deliver antibiotics to prevent infection, pharmaceuticals to enhance bone regrowth and other therapeutics to support healing," says Kaplan.

Kaplan and his team have previously developed silk-based sponges, fibers and foams for use in the operating room and in clinical settings. But until now, silk hadn't been used in the development of a solid medical device for fracture fixation.

The Tufts researchers used silk protein obtained from Bombyx mori (B. mori) silkworm cocoons to form the surgical plates and screws. Produced from the glands of the silkworm, the silk protein is folded in complex ways that give it unique properties of both exceptional strength and versatility.

To test the new devices, the investigators implanted a total of 28 silk-based screws in six laboratory rats. Insertion of screws was straightforward and assessments were then conducted at four weeks and eight weeks, post-implantation.

"No screws failed during implantation," says Kaplan, explaining that because silk is slow to swell, the new devices maintained their mechanical integrity even when coming into contact with fluids and surrounding tissue during surgery. The outcomes suggest that the use of silk plates and screws can spare patients the complications that can develop when metal or synthetic polymer devices come into contact with fluids.

"Having a resorbable, long-lasting plate and screw system has potentially huge applications," says Lin. While the initial aim is to use silk-based screws to treat facial injuries, which occur at a rate of several hundred thousand each year, the devices have the potential for the treatment of a variety of different types of bone fractures.

"Because the silk screws are inherently radiolucent [not seen on X-ray] it may be easier for the surgeon to see how the fracture is pro
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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