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Engineers developing new cements to heal spinal fractures
Date:10/28/2007

New research could offer hope for victims of the most devastating spinal injuries - typically those caused in car crashes.

Biological cements to repair burst fractures of the spine are being developed and tested in a major new collaborative project between the University of Leeds and Queens University Belfast. The team has been awarded just under 500,000 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop and examine the effects of novel cement materials for the treatment of burst fractures.

Bone cements, similar to those used in joint replacement surgery, are already being used to strengthen damaged vertebrae of patients with diseases such as osteoporosis, in a procedure known as vertebroplasty, but burst fractures to the spine, injuries often sustained in major impact accidents and falls, are much more difficult to treat. They account for over 1,000 emergency NHS admissions each year and often require highly complex, invasive surgery and a long stay in hospital.

This type of fracture causes the vertebra to burst apart and in severe cases fragments of bone can be pushed into the spinal cord, says Dr Ruth Wilcox of Leeds Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. Surgeons may be able to join bone fragments together and stabilize the spine with the use of metal screws and rods, but patients with these injuries are often in a really bad way, so the less invasive the treatment, the better.

The project team at Queens has expertise in developing and testing synthetic biomaterials for the repair of bone defects. These materials can be delivered to the fracture site by injection and mimic the chemical composition of bone itself, says Dr Fraser Buchanan, from the Universitys School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

At Leeds the team has expertise in computational modelling of the spine and will be able to provide Queens with data to assist in the development of novel biomaterials and
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Contact: Jo Kelly
jokelly@campuspr.co.uk
44-011-325-89880
University of Leeds  
Source:Eurekalert

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