New bioactive foam 'could be used to aid bone replacement and repair'

Engineering

A new bioactive foam material has been developed to offer a potential solution for the replacement of skull bone lost to injury, surgery or birth defects.

The foam has been created by a team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and consists of a shape memory polymer coated in a bioactive polydopamine. It is intended as an alternative to materials currently used to treat cranio-maxillofacial gaps.

“Researchers have developed a type of bioactive foam that could be used as a malleable scaffold for bone replacement.“

This material is malleable when exposed to warm saline, allowing it to be shaped to fit irregular defects in the skull. It then hardens in place, with specially coated pores within the foam attracting bone cells to naturally regenerate the tissue, allowing the foam to dissolve over time.

It is expected that this will offer numerous advantages over the current approach of applying bone grafts that are often difficult to harvest and cannot be readily manipulated to fit within irregularly-shaped bone defects, compromising their healing benefits.

Mariah Hahn, professor of biomedical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said: "A mouldable bone-promoting scaffold could have broad use if it's successful. It takes advantages of the body's own healing ability, and it's a low-cost off-the-shelf solution that would not need to be pre-tailored to the individual defect."

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