Inspiration for New Technique for Broken Bones

The success of a bone graft depends on the ability of the scaffold to assist the natural healing process. Artificial bone scaffolds have been made from a wide variety of materials, such as polymers or peptide fibres, but they have a number of drawbacks, including low strength and the potential for rejection in the body.

"Compared with these scaffolds, the high mechanical strength, excellent flexibility and low density of carbon nanotubes make them ideal for the production of lightweight, high-strength materials such as bone," says Robert Haddon, Ph.D., a chemist at the University of California, Riverside. Single-walled carbon nanotubes are a naturally occurring form of carbon, like graphite or diamond, where the atoms are arranged like a rolled-up tube of chicken wire. They are among the strongest known materials in the world.

Bone tissue is a natural composite of collagen fibers and hydroxyapatite crystals. Haddon and his coworkers have demonstrated for the first time that nanotubes can mimic the role of collagen as the scaffold for growth of hydroxyapatite in bone.

The researchers expect that nanotubes will improve the strength and flexibility of artificial bone materials, leading to a new type of bone graft for fractures that may also be important in the treatment of bone-thinning diseases such as osteoporosis. The new technique may someday give doctors the ability to inject a solution of nanotubes into a bone fracture, and then wait for the new tissue to grow and heal.

COMPAMED.de; Source: American Chemical Society