Nanoparticles aid bone growth

June 13, 2008

In the first study of its kind, bioengineers and bioscientists at Rice University and Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands, have shown they can grow denser bone tissue by sprinkling stick-like nanoparticles throughout the porous material used to pattern the bone.

The research is available online and slated to appear in the journal Bone. It's the latest breakthrough from the burgeoning field of tissue engineering. The new discipline combines the latest research in materials science and biomedical engineering to produce tissues that can be transplanted without risk of rejection.

To grow new bone, tissue engineers typically place bone cells on porous, biodegradable materials called scaffolds, which act as patterns. With the right chemical and physical cues, the cells can be coaxed into producing new bone. As the scaffold degrades, it is replaced by new bone.

"Ideally, a scaffold should be highly porous, nontoxic and biodegradable, yet strong enough to bear the structural load of the bone that will eventually replace it," said lead researcher Antonios Mikos, Rice's J.W. Cox Professor in Bioengineering, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and the director of Rice's Center for Excellence in Tissue Engineering. "Previous research has shown that carbon nanotubes give added strength to polymer scaffolds, but this is the first study to examine the performance of these materials in an animal model."

In the experiments, the researchers implanted two kinds of scaffolds into rabbits. One type was made of a biodegradable plastic called poly(propylene fumarate), or PPF, which has performed well in previous experiments. The second was made of 99.5 percent PPF and 0.5 percent single-walled carbon nanotubes. Nanotubes are about 80,000th the width of a hair. While they are normally about a thousand times longer than they are wide, the researchers used shorter segments that have fared well in prior cytocompatibility studies.

Half the samples were examined four weeks after implantation and half after 12 weeks. While there was no notable difference in performance at four weeks, the nanotube composites exhibited up to threefold greater bone ingrowth after 12 weeks than the PPF. Furthermore, the researchers found the 12-week composite scaffolds contained about two-thirds as much bone tissue as the nearby native bone tissue, while the PPF contained only about one-fifth as much.

Mikos said the nanocomposites performed better than anticipated. In fact, the results indicate that they may go beyond passive guides and take an active role in promoting bone growth.

"We don't yet know the exact mechanism of this enhanced bone formation, but we have intensive studies under way to find out," Mikos said. "It could be related to changes in surface chemistry, strength or other factors."

Source: Rice University

Explore further: Engineering the world's smallest nanocrystal

Related Stories

Engineering the world's smallest nanocrystal

July 6, 2015

In the natural world, proteins use the process of biomineralization to incorporate metallic elements into tissues, using it to create diverse materials such as seashells, teeth, and bones. However, the way proteins actually ...

Recommended for you

Reshaping the solar spectrum to turn light to electricity

July 28, 2015

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense. The solar cells—made often of silicon or cadmium telluride—rarely cost more than 20 percent ...

Meet the high-performance single-molecule diode

July 29, 2015

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University has passed a major milestone in molecular electronics with the creation of the world's highest-performance single-molecule diode. Working at Berkeley Lab's Molecular ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.