October 2021 – April 2022
Spectacular glass brings together biomaterial scientists at Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry to explore and demonstrate the future of biomaterials for bone healing.
Bone diseases are extremely common, especially among the elderly. The reason for the disease’s high prevalence is relatively simple – almost everyone loses bone as they grow older 1. The biggest problem created by bone diseases are fractures. Often the defects in the bone caused by these fractures can end up so big that the bone will not be able to fix itself, and so it needs surgical intervention. Current surgical interventions involve the use of implants which are permanent and do not degrade or adapt with the patient. This is where our glass fibres and temporary scaffolds come into play!
When these glass fibres and temporary scaffolds are put in the bone fracture, they encourage special bone cells in the body to attach to them which means that they can re-grow the missing bone.
The glass fibres actually look just like cotton candy! The porous structure of the fibres allows for cells that encourage bone regrowth, such as stem cells, to easily navigate through them as they have a similar structure to the building blocks of all tissues and organs. When the fibres are packed into the bone defect, they dissolve and release ions such as silicon and calcium which can speed up bone regrowth. Inorganic ions can be added to the fibres, which can also assist with the bone healing process by providing additional antibacterial and/or anti-inflammatory properties 2,3.
Another option for bone repair is three-dimensional temporary scaffolds with a range of geometries. With the help of advanced manufacturing technology, biomaterial scientists can produce personalised temporary scaffolds for each patient to ensure a suitable environment for bone cells, so that they can re-grow and repair the defects. These scaffolds could be created so that they have the exact geometry of the bone defect, fitting perfectly into place.
Often fractures in the elderly occur at joints, so either the hip or knee. Both of these materials could potentially be used for bone regeneration instead of knee replacements and hip replacements, which are currently used. Using these new bioactive materials means that there is a reduced chance of rejection and infection, which is common reason for failure with normal hip and knee implants.