Synthetic bone booster

August 9, 1996

A synthetic bone substitute that could be used to repair facial injuries is being developed at the Advanced Materials Research Laboratory at the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education.

Made from calcium phosphate, the same mineral as real bone, the ceramic substitute has sponge-like pores of varying sizes that enable surrounding tissues such as ligaments and blood vessels to become part of the structure.

Real bone, from areas around the implant, is also expected to grow on to the substitute material.

According to its deviser, Andy Wright, this is ceramics' advantage over conventional materials used in medical implants, such as titanium, alumina or stainless steel.

These metals do not encourage the body's natural bone to grow onto them, with a result that implants can loosen.

Metals are also subject to stress problems and fatigue, and these difficulties can sometimes cause implants to fail.

Wrexham's Maelor Hosptial has shown interest in the synthetic bone.

But before clinical trials can begin Dr Wright has to further enhance his ceramic's toughness and strength.

When that research is complete he expects that the substitute will be used first in implants to repair injuries to cheekbones.

Later on, after being successfully tested on small bones, the hope is that the ceramic can be adapted for use in complicated joints.

If such an adaptation proves successful, synthetic bone could eventually be used in replacement hip and knee joints.

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