Biodegradable Sponge Supports Bone Regrowth

Biodegradable Sponge Supports Bone Regrowth

A newly engineered, malleable material may replace grafting for sufferers of bone loss

Janet Burns
  • 18 august 2014

The healing process can often hit a wall when significant bone loss, as from cancer removal or lesions, occurs. However, a new sponge-like material developed by biomedical engineers and researchers at Texas A&M; may offer a revolutionary way to fill the treatment gap.

The newly developed “bone foam” is made out of a polycaprolactone, a polymer already used to separate healing tissues, and can construct a sort of scaffold around and between healing bones to let cells regrow themselves. As the American Chemical Society has reported, the “self-fitting” material expands in warm salt water to perfectly fill bone gaps and support healing.


Project leader Melissa Grunlan, PhD. presented the team’s findings at the ACS’s annual meeting in San Francisco on August 13th. As Wired explains, Grunlan stressed the qualities of the materials that make it uniquely applicable for bone regrowth: firstly, that it becomes malleable at 140° F or above, but stiffens at body temperature, allowing a surgeon to shape the material to fit a bone lesion before it cools and “locks” into place; secondly, that it breaks down slowly and safely inside the body.

Most important to their achievement, however, was their choice to combine these elements in a stiff but porous material; “after the foam is in place, bone cells [can] come in and replace the foam, which is absorbed into the body and naturally excreted,” Grunlan explains.


Current treatments include bone filling and bone grafting (pictured below), both of which present numerous problems for surgeons and patients alike. “The problem is that the autograft is a rigid material that is very difficult to shape into these irregular defects,” Grunlan tells the ACS. She also explains that harvesting bone for the autograft can itself create complications at the source from which the bone was taken. Today’s bone filling methods involve using bone putty or cement to plug gaps. However, these materials become extremely brittle when they harden, and lack the porousness of Grunlan’s proposed sponge filler, which allows new bone cells to amass and regrow tissue. Notably, both methods seem to lack the subtlety required to reconstruct, for example, a person’s facial features and general appearance after cranio-maxillofacial bone loss or from birth defects.


The team’s research to date has been limited to seeding osteoblasts — cells which synthesize bone — in samples of the sponges, but with encouraging results. The next step, Grunlan said, will be to test the ability of the material’s shape memory polymers to heal cranio-maxillofacial defects in animals. “The work we’ve done in vitro is very encouraging,” she says. “Now we’d like to move this into preclinical and, hopefully, clinical studies.”

[h/t] Gizmodo

Images: Elsevier Ltd., Grunlan Research Group


The Story Behind How LYNK & CO Created A Car Brand From Scratch

Technology Today

Google’s Gyroscopic Camera Lets You Shoot VR Content On Android

The experimental device called Sprayscape takes photos inside a sphere to create 360-degree virtual images

Syndicated Today

Why Fashion Labels Are Moving Away From Overt Branding

New research suggests brand are shying away from logos and flashy displays


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Work

See All
Fashion Today

Scientists Have Developed A Furry Wetsuit Material Inspired By Beavers

MIT researchers created the lighter and warmer fabric to maximize speed in the water and to keep swimmers dry

Related Expert

Eric Lima

Open Source Professor

Advertising Today

Coca-Cola Has Created A Custom Gaming PC

Maingear developed a computer featuring a fully functional coke bottle water-cooling reservoir

Social Media Today

Chipotle’s New Weekly Show Broadcasts Over Snapchat

The Mexican fast food brand is trying to build goodwill with high school and college students through the social media platform

Media & Publishing Today

The NBA Is Filming Live Games With A Special Camera Just For Your Phone

Subscribers to League Pass can now access a feature called Mobile View, which is shot to be optimized for phones and tablets


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed october 26, 2016

Health Expert: Nutritional Meal Replacements Are A Solution To Corporate Wellness

Ample Foods Founder Connor Young explains why supplements are the next food trend coming to the workplace

PSFK Labs october 25, 2016

The Keys For Exceptional Performance On And Off The Field

PSFK Labs' new report highlights five important insights for businesses to perform better than the competition

AI Today

Film Touchingly Portrays The Challenge Of Relying On AI To Combat Loneliness

Director David Wilson takes viewers on a journey of the benefits and ultimate deficiencies of replacing human interaction with robots

Travel Today

Delta Lets Flyers Track Their Luggage From The Airplane To The Airport

The airline's new app allows customers to see exactly where their baggage is throughout their journey

Food Today

Chef Turns Invasive Species Into Delicious Sushi

Creator Bun Lai is adapting strange new ingredients for his menu, which responds to the ecological impact of overabundant creatures in the local environment

Gaming & Play Today

Build Your Own Subway System In This Minimalist Game

Mini Metro lets you design your own fully functional transit network, simulating the flow of urban commuters with pared-down visuals

Work Today

Keyboard Designed To Help Women Use More Assertive Language

The device is a commentary on gender roles in the workplace, and features easy access to "power verbs" that help reinforce a habit of being direct in writing

Arts & Culture Today

Spanish Artist Dreams Up What Animals Would Look Like In Modern Clothing

Yago Partal's portraits depict the fantasized style preferences of creatures worldwide, from an Arctic wolf to a zebra

Fitness & Sport Today

New Data Technologies Make Hyper-Personalized Training A Reality

The Sports Debrief from PSFK Labs looks at how analytics tools are being developed to optimize human performance across all industries

Technology Today

IBM Watson Helps Grammy-Winning Producer Craft An EP

The computer system's data technology generated musical scores for Alex Da Kid's first solo project

No search results found.