Breakthrough for bone repair

A breakthrough in polymer development means that soon there may be a radical new treatment for people with broken bones – a special kind of material that can ‘glue’ the bone back together and support it while it heals.

Scientists at CSIRO Molecular Science in Australia have developed a biodegradable polymer that can be used in the human body.

Not only is it biodegradable and biocompatible, it can be formulated as an injectable gel which cures in-situ or on-demand by promoting tissue growth. The polymer’s rate of degradation can also be controlled.

“Synthetic polymers offer a number of advantages over ceramic and natural polymer-based materials,” says CSIRO Molecular Science Chief, Dr. Annabelle Duncan.

“We envisage that this polymer technology could be tailored for applications in orthopaedics, orthodontics, drug delivery, wound care, tissue engineering and cartilage repair,” Dr. Duncan adds.

One of the inventors of the polymer, Dr. Thilak Gunatillake, plans to apply it initially in the form of a bone glue for fracture repair.

He says that the material has a distinct advantage in this area due to its combination of injectability, adhesiveness and excellent mechanical strength. Further research is planned to demonstrate the polymer’s ability to deliver cells or biological agents to accelerate tissue regrowth.

“The use of the polymer for guided bone regrowth is not only applicable to the orthopaedic area, but also in related applications such as periodontal surgery and dental implants”, Dr. Gunatillake says.

A spin-off company, Polymerco, has been established by CSIRO and Xceed Biotechnology to develop the new biodegradable polymer technology for medical device applications.

“Xceed will invest $5.1 million into Polymerco and both CSIRO and Xceed will own 50%,” says the Chief Executive Officer of Xceed Biotechnology, Mr. David McAuliffe.

CSIRO and Polymerco inventors are presenting papers on the new technology at the 7th World Biomaterials Congress in Sydney from 17 to 21 May, 2004.

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