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Smart orthopedic implants and self-fitting tissue scaffolding created by UMMS researchers
Date:4/5/2010

WORCESTER, Mass. Orthopedic surgeons are often hamstrung by less-than-ideal grafting material when performing surgeries for complex bone injuries resulting from trauma, aging or cancer. Conventional synthetic bone grafts are typically made of stiff polymers or brittle ceramics, and cannot readily conform to the complex and irregular shapes that often result from injury; in addition, they often require metallic fixation devices that require open surgeries to insert and remove. Ideally, a scaffolding graft would conform to complex shapes of an injury site, provide weight-bearing support, require less invasive surgical delivery, and ultimately disappear when no longer needed.

Using a nanoparticle core, Jie Song, PhD, assistant professor of orthopedics & physical rehabilitation and cell biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and postdoctoral fellow Jianwen Xu, have fashioned a new type of tissue and bone scaffolding polymer that addresses a number of these long-standing limitations. Research published in the online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes the development of a class of heat-activated smart materials that combine tissue-like properties and strength that are clinically safe to deploy and able to integrate with surrounding tissue.

The key feature of the new polymer is its heat-activated malleability and shape memory. Using CT scans and MRI images of the injury site, Song envisions physicians creating a polymer mold of the scaffolding needed to stabilize a skeletal injury site, in the lab, prior to surgery. Heat activated at a safe 50C, the smart polymer could then be reshaped to a more compressed form suitable for insertion in the body through a small, minimally invasive incision. Once at the injury site, the idea is to then thermally re-activate the polymer to cause it to revert to its original, pre-molded shape in seconds, according to Song.

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Contact: Jim Fessenden
james.fessenden@umassmed.edu
508-856-2000
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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