Have you ever wished you could fast forward time and avoid waiting weeks for that pesky broken bone to heal? That fantasy is quickly becoming a reality. We may start saying goodbye to the days when all of your school chums insisted on signing your cast. The pioneers behind this creation are a team of French scientists, who have produced a foamy cement which, when injected into the bones, helps repair the injury and stimulates new bone formation.
It was previously suggested that a biodegradable implant could help heal broken bones, made from corn starch and a volcanic ash compound, montmorillonite clay. However, this takes up to 18 months to dissolve into the body and will not be available to patients for years to come.
Much like a well performed magic trick, everyone is eager to know the secret behind this new phenomenon to hit the scientifc world. A fundamental component of this foamy cement is a group of minerals that includes hydroxyapatite, which forms nearly 70% of our bones. They are admirable bone substitutes because the minerals can easily be injected into the body. Providing the patient does not have a deadly fear of needles, this is a revolutionary invention that could offer people the chance to significantly reduce their recovery time. Professional athletes would welcome this new invention, because there is nothing more frustrating than being caged in a cast, and rendered unfit to train. The fantastic formula could bring unending benefits to individuals who need a speedy solution to an injury, which applies to anyone who has a fast-paced life.
As all of the materials in the foam are porous, the minerals are able to flow into the implant site, aiding quick bone regeneration. Scientists have been concerned that these holes are not big enough to allow bone cells to penetrate deep into the area, which could make the healing process difficult. This is important to consider; if the cement contains holes that are too large then it can rapidly disintegrate, rendering the cement useless. Thankfully, the cement being a foamy texture combats this query, because it is made from a hydrogel called Si-HPMC, a biocompatible polymer that helps prevent calcium phosphate cements from cracking. By separating the two materials in syringes and quickly mixing them, the scientists incorporate the correct amount of air to produce the foamy consistency.
Importantly, the injectable material has been tested on the bones of rabbits, where the researchers report that there is proof of new bone formation around the implantation site. At this rate of progress, one day we could be like a famous Time Lord, our bodies healing within mere seconds. Alas, we are only human.