Scientists invent electrical scaffolding-like material to help heal broken bones

July 2, 2020

Current implants or scaffold materials that mimic the body’s own electrical field, to stimulate bone cells into reproducing, are bulky, inconvenient and need to be surgically removed once the broken bone has healed. A new, wirelessly powered innovation by scientists at the University of Connecticut (UConn), US, now ensures that the implants would promote bone regrowth and never have to be removed – it simply dissolves after the job is done.

The electrical bone scaffold is made of nanofibresof a non-toxic, piezoelectric polymer known aspoly (L-lactic acid) or PLLA. Piezoelectric materials produce an electrical charge in response to applied mechanical stress. Once implanted, the doctor or patient could use an external handheld device to send pulses of ultrasound through tocause the piezoelectric scaffolding to vibrate, which would in turn cause it to generate a weak but therapeutic electrical field to stimulate bone cells to reproduce.

The material would eventually – and most importantly – be dissolved and replaced with natural bone, so nothing would need to be removed. It has already been successfully used to boost the healing of skull fractures in mice.

The scientists are currently working to gain a better understanding of exactly how electrical fields stimulate bone cell reproduction. They also hope to make the electrical scaffolding material more favourable to help regrow other types of damaged tissue, such as muscles, nerves or cartilage.


Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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