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Engineering Materials
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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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!

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.

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. 

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).

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting research
Ann R. Thryft   5/23/2012 1:21:10 PM
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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.

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: 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.

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: 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.

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.

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