Ceramic particles promote bone repair

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Scientists in London and the Netherlands have found that particles of calcium phosphate can stimulate bone growth.

A new study shows how particles of the ceramic have the ability to stimulate promising bone regrowth by attracting stem cells and natural growth factors that encourage tissue growth to promote healing and integration of the grafted tissue.

‘The rate of bone repair we see with these materials rivals that of traditional grafts using a patient’s own bone,’ said Prof Joost de Bruijn from the School of Engineering and Materials Science at Queen Mary, University of London. ‘And what sets it apart from other synthetic graft substitutes is its ability to attract stem cells and the body’s natural growth factors, which coincide to form new, strong, natural bone around an artificial graft.’

Bone formation around an implant
Bone formation around an implant

The researchers tested natural bone grafts against ceramic particles with varied structural and chemical properties. They are reported to have found that microporous ceramic particles composed of calcium phosphate, the primary component of bone ash, induced stem cells to develop into bone cells in the lab and stimulated bone growth in live tissue in mice, dogs and sheep.

Bone injuries packed with the ceramic particles are said to have healed similarly to implants constructed from the animals’ own bone.

The study shows how it also matches a commercially available product that contains artificial growth factors and has the undesirable side effect of causing bone fragments to form in nearby soft tissue.

Although the researchers have not yet identified the mechanism that drives bone growth in the synthetic implants, they noted that variations in the ceramic material’s chemistry, microporosity, microstructure and degradation influence the graft’s performance.

The study suggests that biomaterials-based bone grafts can manipulate cell behaviour in order to repair injury, and have potential for the repair of bone injuries in humans.

Prof de Bruijn worked with collaborators from the University of Twente, Netherlands, for the study, which can be read in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.