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UT to develop fracture putty for traumatic leg injuries

Biomedical engineers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston are leading a multi-institution initiative to produce a bio-compatible compound designed to mend serious leg fractures.

The researchers have been awarded $5.2 million in initial funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop "fracture putty" that could be used to regenerate bones shattered by roadside bombs or other explosive devices. This type of injury is called a non-union fracture and generally will not heal in a timely manner. It can lead to amputation. The total value of the effort, if all phases of the development program are completed, could be up to $7.9 million.

Serious leg injuries typically are repaired with bone grafts. Pins, plates or screws hold the grafts to healthy bone and external fixators provide support. Soldiers may require multiple surgeries and recuperation periods of about a year. And, they may not recoup full use of the injured leg.

If fracture putty proves successful, injured soldiers could fundamentally regain full use of their legs in a much shorter period of time. It could also be used in emergency rooms to treat civilians injured in traffic accidents and other traumatic events, said Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D., principal investigator and deputy chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint venture among the UT Health Science Center at Houston, The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"Success on even a small part of the project has the potential to revolutionize orthopedic medicine. It could give people with serious leg injuries an opportunity to regain full use of limbs that now require amputations or the use of permanent implants," Ferrari said. "We're creating a living material that can be applied to crushed bones. The putty will solidify inside the body and provide support while the new bone grows."

"Anything you can do to start the he

Contact: Robert Cahill
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

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