Facing up to glass bones

June 28, 1996

Glass could be used to rebuild shattered face and neck bone, according to University of Sheffield researchers. They claim the "bone friendly" material is much better than metal or plastic used in reconstruction surgery.

Paul Hatton, lecturer in bio-materials at Sheffield, said that clinical trials could begin within three years if they win funding from the European Union.

He said: "Glass has properties enabling it to respond to bone which metals and plastics just don't have. It can also be customised to meet the patient's needs and is durable. It won't shatter with a blow to the face."

Climbers who fall, hang gliders who crash and road accident victims are most likely to benefit from the new treatment, said Dr Hatton.

He and his team at the glass research centre have been working on the project for about 18 months and have applied for Pounds 700,000 from the EU which they hope to receive in September. The money will allow them to carry on their research and launch clinical trials before the turn of the century.

The material, said Dr Hatton, is handled just like window glass but heated to create a ceramic which is then moulded to shape. Metal implants used to repair broken hips and legs can also be coated with the material to help bonding.

He said: "Sometimes you can see the sheen of a metal implant under the skin of the face. You wouldn't have that with glass. But it is unlikely that the glass ceramic would be strong enough to be used alone to repair hips and legs."

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