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Bone Repair Aided by Silk Scaffold
5/22/2012

A tough new bone scaffold material uses hydrolyzed silk microfibers to reinforce a silk matrix.   (Source: Tufts University)
A tough new bone scaffold material uses hydrolyzed silk microfibers to reinforce a silk matrix.
(Source: Tufts University)

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gsmith120
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Interesting Research on Bone Repair
gsmith120   5/22/2012 8:24:14 AM
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Ann, very interesting story.  Is this technology being used on real patience or it is still in the development stages?    I hope you will write future stories on this as it continues to develop.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting Research on Bone Repair
Ann R. Thryft   5/22/2012 12:00:55 PM
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gsmith, I doubt if this has been used on actual patients yet--this is an R&D project at a university, and the announcement would most likely have mentioned any beta testing. If we hear anything about actual testing, I'll be happy to report on it.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Interesting Research on Bone Repair
Rob Spiegel   5/22/2012 3:43:24 PM
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This is an exciting development, Ann. The biomedical field is just going to get more and more interesting in coming years. If this material could help those with osteoporosis, it could have a major impact of the quality of life for millions.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting Research on Bone Repair
Ann R. Thryft   5/23/2012 12:44:28 PM
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Thanks, Rob, I agree. I was really happy to see this. I especially like the cross-application aspect: silk has been used for years in sutures because it's biocompatible and biodegradable.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Interesting Research on Bone Repair
Rob Spiegel   5/23/2012 12:46:10 PM
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Good point, Ann. We're going to see tons of these developments in the coming decade. The timing is perfect given the approaching medical needs of aging boomers.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting Research on Bone Repair
Ann R. Thryft   5/23/2012 2:30:52 PM
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Rob, I agree. I think there are a few factors driving developments like this, including an aging population (at least in the US, Japan and Europe, although the opposite trend is occurring in the ROW and it, in fact, trumps the aging trend in these three areas).

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Interesting Research on Bone Repair
Rob Spiegel   5/23/2012 3:05:50 PM
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You're right, Ann, the emerging economies are young. But the mature economies have the medical needs, and the mature economies also have the development dollars. The againg population will create a growing need that will support medical developments. 

williamlweaver
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Biodegradable Drug Delivery
williamlweaver   5/22/2012 8:24:19 AM
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Wow, Ann! This is fantastic. I've worked with Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) bone cement along with researchers here at the Einstein Medical Center here in Philadelphia. Our research was investigating the mechanical properties (strength) of PMMA after having chemotherapeutic agents mixed in with the monomer before polymerization and the elution rates of the drugs after they were placed in vivo. The PMMA retained its strength for the most part, but the slow elution rates of most drugs meant a patient would have to endure low dose chemo drugs over many years to decades. 

A biodegradable bone scaffold material such as this could be used to deliver the chemo drugs over a finite amount of time. Promising applications...


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Biodegradable Drug Delivery
Ann R. Thryft   5/22/2012 12:02:17 PM
williamlweaver, thanks for the enthusiastic response from someone who's worked with materials aimed at similar applications. The scenario you mention sounds very similar to the idea the Tufts researchers mention, of drug delivery over a short period, and then the scaffold biodegrading in situ.

naperlou
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Natural materials
naperlou   5/22/2012 9:17:20 AM
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Ann, this seems like a good example of natural based materials being used to solve a human health problem.  Is that the case? 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Natural materials
Ann R. Thryft   5/22/2012 3:55:49 PM
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naperlou, I think you're right. This is yet another case of using natural materials to solve problems by taking advantage of their inherent characteristics, instead of trying to force synthetic materials to do something they are not made to do, or can't easily do (be bio-compatible and biodegradable, in this instance). Of course, the researchers had to design silk matrices to mimic bone, but that apparently wasn't too tough to achieve.

NadineJ
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Re: Natural materials
NadineJ   5/22/2012 11:49:40 PM
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Nice article.  I suspect this can be vegan friendly since long silk strands aren't needed. 

Ann, do you know if the silk can be harvested after the moth emerges for this?  Boiling larvae alive is generally how long silk threads are extracted.

Many true vegans, whether for ethical or religious reasons, have difficulties with many medical procedures because of animal material or testing used.

Personally, i love to see biomimicry in new developments.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Natural materials
Ann R. Thryft   5/23/2012 12:55:50 PM
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Nadine, there was no information about whether larvae are removed before the cocoons are boiled. It would be interesting to know if, when that is not done, that's for expediency or because it produces a better silk fiber.

TJ McDermott
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Permanent?
TJ McDermott   5/23/2012 3:22:09 AM
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Ann, does this "scaffold" become a permanent part of the bone, or will it eventually be removed from one's body?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Permanent?
Ann R. Thryft   5/23/2012 12:46:04 PM
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TJ, this is designed to dissolve inside the body, as it is bio-compatible and biodegradable.

bobjengr
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BIODEGRADEABLE
bobjengr   5/23/2012 4:31:55 PM
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Great post Ann.  To me, the most fascinating part is fact that the material is biodegradable.  It does its job then goes away—absorbed into the human "system".  Do you know how long Tuffs University worked on the project and whether or not necessary medical approvals have been awarded?  I would love to know what length of time was needed to develop this marvelous application.  Again, great post.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: BIODEGRADEABLE
Ann R. Thryft   5/24/2012 12:51:00 PM
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Thanks, bobjengr, glad you like the story. This has just been announced in R&D, so I doubt if they've gotten any sort of medical approvals yet, or it would have been mentioned. More details about Tufts' work may be available on their website, or in the (unfortunately for-pay) research article we give a link to in the article. Let us know if you find out!

Dave Palmer
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Interesting research
Dave Palmer   5/23/2012 1:02:12 PM
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@Ann: Wow, another fascinating article.  Not only did the Tufts research group use a biological material, but they also used a bio-inspired principle of combining large fibers with microfibers.  It's also interesting that the fiber scaffolds that were most bone-like (i.e. the most rigid) were the most effective in promoting differentiation of stem cells into bone cells.  In other words, not only are they strong, but they also help the body repair itself.

On the other hand, it's a little humbling that the best scaffold material still had a compressive strength that is nearly an order of magnitude less than that of bone (13 MPa vs. 100 MPa).  Clearly, we have a long way to go before we can improve on what nature has, after all, taken billions of years to develop.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting research
Ann R. Thryft   5/23/2012 1:21:10 PM
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1 saves
Thanks, Dave. I also noticed that the silk scaffold strength doesn't match up to the strength of bone, which was, after all, designed to do something silk was not. I often suspect that we may have to learn how to design new materials at the molecular level in order to make what we need out of non-original materials.

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