Researchers develop new substance for bone grafts in osteoporosis patients

Bone tissue grafts often can pose a significant obstacle to orthopedic surgeons who attempt to repair complex fractures or large areas of bone loss, such as those caused by trauma and osteoporosis. Current synthetic substitutes can lack bone-like properties that are needed for successful grafting. In response to these challenges, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have developed a synthetic bone material called FlexBone.

Jie Song, assistant professor of orthopedics and physical rehabilitation, as well as cell biology, created a bone substitute that can be press-fit into a bony lesion. Song and a team of researchers used a material that combines a key mineral found in bone (nanocrystalline hydroxyapatite) with a hydrogel similar to that used in contact lenses. Their research is published in Tissue Engineering Part A.

"Our idea was to create an inexpensive, off-the-shelf product that can be easily manipulated in the operating room to fill large bone voids and facilitate the tissue repair," said Song.

The density of the FlexBone material allows surgeons to pre-drill channels in it, allowing for bone marrow from adjacent bone to migrate and penetrate. This helps to attract progenitor cells that are critical to new bone formation, according to the researchers.