Apart from the time required for new bones to grow, pain is a big factor in such operations.
"Spinal fusion surgery often involves two surgical sites - one in the back and one at the pelvis. The second site, in particular, can cause intense pain that lasts many weeks or even months," says A/P Tan.
As a result of this, researchers have been looking for less invasive ways to help stabilize the spine. The breakthrough came with biologics - genetically engineered proteins derived from human genes.
"Scientists in the United States found that BMPs, or Bone Morphogenetic Proteins, can be used to selectively drive certain functions in the human body, including the formation of new bone.
"When applied to the bone, this group of proteins attracts stem cells from other parts of the body to the damaged area and encourages them to grow into bone cells," explains A/P Tan.
He adds, "BMP is to the bone what fertilizer is to plants. With BMP, there is no longer a need to harvest bone grafts from the pelvis, which significantly reduces the amount of pain the patient suffers."
More importantly, BMP speeds up the bone healing process, thereby ensuring that patients recover and return to activities within just a few months.
This procedure has opened up a whole new vista in orthopedics, paving the way for subsequent collaboration between biotechnology and medical science.
Going forward, doctors here believe that
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