Medical Minute 8-29: Bone Scaffold

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

At the University of Texas San Antonio, researchers are developing something similar to help build bones -- not buildings -- using a medical grade of polyurethane foam, the porous, spongy stuff you can find in everything from toys to carpet padding.

Joo Ong co-invented the bone scaffold. He says it can be used instead of bone grafts for injuries as small as five- millimeters.

"But, we can make it as big as we want."

Calcium phosphate -- the mineral found naturally in bone -- coats the polyurethane foam. Then, it's put in a furnace. Less than 24 hours later, the foam burns away. The calcium phosphate takes its shape -- hardening into a scaffold

It's very porous. Ong says how it picks up liquids is a sign of how it could be a better option than using donor bone or other synthetics in grafting procedures

"There's less likelihood for the body to reject the material," said Joo Ong, Ph.D., UTSA Biomedical Engineering Chair.

Right now, the scaffold's awaiting FDA approval. Cory Hallam says through the Center for Innovation and technology entrepreneurship, it's the first product from UTSA going to market.

"It's not just pure research we do any more. We're solving real world problems that have a big impact on the human condition," said Cory Hallam, Director, Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship.

While the bone scaffold hasn't helped grow human bone yet, it's grown a university invention into a new company called gen-osteo and this little thing could be the next big thing in bone grafting.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,


BACKGROUND: More than 500,000 bone graft procedures are performed in the United States each year, and approximately 2.2 million are performed worldwide. The estimated cost of these procedures approaches $2.5 billion per year. Either autograft or allograft tissue is used in 90 percent of the procedures. Despite the benefits of autografts and allografts, the limitations and risks of each have led to the pursuit of alternatives. One such alternative is a synthetic scaffolding created by biomedical engineers at the University of Texas in San Antonio (UTSA). They invented a scaffolding that’s light, porous and biocompatible and can be used to help mend or re-grow bone. (SOURCE: Medscape)

MATERIALS: The scaffold may be used with adult stem cells to produce a new and highly-effective bone graft material. The scaffolding is made of calcium, phosphorous and oxygen, so it is found naturally in the bone. A lab-created liquid is infused into a form, baked, and then shaped into various sizes to fit a surgeon’s need. Since it looks and acts like real bone, the body can fill in the scaffold with blood and vessels.
(SOURCE: University of Texas San Antonio)

FUTURE USE: In addition to the use in spinal fusion and general orthopedics, the grafting material may one day be used to help bone cancer patients, people with birth defects, and trauma victims like soldiers or patients injured in car accidents. The scaffolds may be used to support the regeneration of craniofacial bone in patients who have lost a portion of their skulls because of surgery or disease.
This promising new technology has been five years in the making. If the bone graft product wins FDA approval, it could be on the market and in use by patients by the end of 2012. San Antonio-based GenOsteo, Inc. and Austin-based SpineSmith Partners have announced an agreement to commercialize the synthetic scaffold.
(SOURCE: University of Texas San Antonio)

Christi Fish, Associate Director of Media Relations
The University of Texas at San Antonio

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