Achilles healed?

A researcher at Manchester University has developed a new material that could help speed up the process of treating injuries to tendons.

Tendon injuries are some of the most common and frustrating injuries for an athlete – often forcing them to stay away from the sports field for up to eight weeks.

But now the pioneering research of a Manchester University student could be about to speed up the recovery process.

Lucy Bosworth, from the university’s School of Materials, has developed a way of spinning biodegradable nanofibres into a ‘fabric’ that could be surgically grafted onto the site of an injury, where it encourages the injured tendon to grow and repair, before safely degrading.

And that, researchers believe, would dramatically decrease the time needed for a tendon to heal.

Currently, patients face the choice of having a tendon from another part of the body surgically grafted onto the injury site or completely resting the injured area for a significant period of time.

Grafting a tendon from another part of the body creates a second site in the body that needs to heal, and the alternative of enforced rest for a number of weeks can be unpopular, especially for those who are committed to their sport.

Bosworth said that using the artificial tendon would take away the need to operate on a second site in the body, which speeds up the recovery time.

Regener8, one of the five virtual research centres that have been established through the Northern Way initiative, recently made a grant of £50,000 to the university so that Bosworth can continue with her research.

For her part, Bosworth is about to start the pre-clinical stage of her fabric, which she claims could be used in hospitals in less than three years.