Metal implants have been used for fixing the fractured bones for quite some time. These fixation devices are usually made of alloys. Apart from other issues like stiffness and stress on the bone, the problem with these implants is that a second surgery is required in case removal is warranted.
Scientists from Tufts University School of Engineering and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have developed surgical plates and screws based on silk protein that offer improved bone remodeling following injury and also be absorbed by the body over time.
The findings have been published by Lin and colleagues in the March 4 issue of Nature Communications.
Composition of silk protein may be similar to bone composition and Silk based materials are extremely robust. They maintain structural stability under very high temperatures and withstand other extreme conditions, and they can be readily sterilized.
The silk protein was obtained from Bombyx mori silkworm cocoons and was used to form the surgical plates and screws. The proteins are produced by the glands of the silkworm.
In the present study that was published in Nature Communications, 28 silk based screw were used in six laboratory rats. The screws were inserted in usual fashion and evaluations were done at four weeks and eight weeks after the screws were implanted.
The authors claim that no screw failed during implantation. The silk is slow to swell by virtue of its properties and the new devices maintained their mechanical integrity even when coming into contact with fluids and surrounding tissue during surgery.
The initial aim is to use silk-based screws to treat facial injuries, but, the devices have the potential for the treatment of a variety of different types of bone fractures.
One of the important feature of the is that these silk based implants are radiolucent it is easier for the surgeon to see progress of the fracture without view being blocked as in case of metal devices.
Authors say that work in larger animal models and human clinical trials is needed.
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