WASHINGTON: Researchers from the University of Leeds and Queenâ€™s University Belfast are developing biological cements to repair â€˜burst fracturesâ€™ of the spine.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has funded 500,000 pounds for the collaborative project.
Although bone cements similar to those used in joint replacement surgery are already being used to strengthen damaged vertebrae of patients with diseases such as osteoporosis, â€˜burst fracturesâ€™ to the spine are much more difficult to treat.
â€œThis type of fracture causes the vertebra to burst apart and in severe cases fragments of bone can be pushed into the spinal cord. Surgeons may be able to join bone fragments together and stabilize the spine with the use of metal screws and rods, but patients with these injuries are often in a really bad way, so the less invasive the treatment, the better,â€ says Dr Ruth Wilcox of Leedsâ€™ Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.
The researchers at Queenâ€™s are experts in developing and testing synthetic biomaterials for the repair of bone defects.
â€œThese materials can be delivered to the fracture site by injection and mimic the chemical composition of bone itself,â€ says Dr Fraser Buchanan, from the Universityâ€™s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
The team at Leeds has expertise in computational modelling of the spine, and will provide their collaborators from Queenâ€™s with data to assist in the development of novel biomaterials, and to simulate how they will perform in patients.
Statistically, burst fractures are seen more in younger people, and not enough is currently known about the long-term consequences of using existing cements for the treatment of this type of injury.
The researchers say that there is evidence that some patients with osteoporosis, who tend to be older, can develop fractures in the vertebrae adjacent to those treated with vertebroplasty.
â€œWe think this may be because current cements are stiffer than the bone itself causing an imbalance in the way the spine bears weight. This may increase loading on the neighbouring vertebrae, which can lead to further damage,â€ says Dr Wilcox.
â€œClearly we need to develop biomaterials that more closely match the properties of real bone. This project offers the perfect opportunity to use the range of complimentary skills of this grouping to predict the effects of newly developed cements and even incorporate biological agents to assist the bodyâ€™s own healing process,â€ added Dr Buchanan.
The researchers hope that the use of bone cements for burst fractures would be simpler, quicker, and much less invasive for patients. It will also reduce both recovery times and costs, they add.
Source: The Times Of India