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A glass apart
Date:6/5/2008

British scientists are developing a new type of glass that can dissolve and release calcium into the body. This will enable patients to regrow bones and could signal a move away from bone transplants.

The porous glass, originally developed at Imperial College is capable of acting as an active template for new bone growth, dissolving in the body without leaving any trace of itself or any toxic chemicals. As it dissolves it releases calcium and other elements such as silicon into the adjacent body fluids, stimulating bone growth.

The glass activates genes present in human bone cells which encode proteins controlling the bone cell cycle and the differentiation of the cell to form bone matrix and rapid mineralisation of bone nodules. It is the release of soluble silica and calcium ions in specific concentrations that activate the genes. Gene activation occurs only when the timing sequence of the cell cycle is matched by that of the glass surface reactions and controlled release of the ions.

Partners at the Universities of Kent and Warwick have been carrying out experiments at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's world leading ISIS neutron source. Research at ISIS is showing exactly how the calcium is held in the glass and thereby precisely how it is released into the body. Professor Bob Newport at the University of Kent explains that it was when the material was studied at ISIS that the process became clear.

"Although variants of these bioactive materials are already in clinical use, and the role of calcium in these materials was already understood as being critical in terms of both the stability of the glass and its bioactivity, no direct and quantitative study of the calcium atoms within the glass network had been undertaken. Using ISIS to study the relationship between these atoms and the host silicate glass via techniques unique to neutron diffraction has enabled us to move forward with the programme. The key outcome of our experime
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Contact: Natalie Bealing
n.d.bealing@stfc.ac.uk
01-235-445-484
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Source:Eurekalert

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