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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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