Synthetic bone graft straight off the OR shelf
A biodegradable and synthetic bone graft material may one day be used to regenerate lost bone. The mastermind behind the innovation is Postdoctoral Researcher Kaarlo Paakinaho, who received the Young Researcher Award of Tekes’s Functional Materials Programme in December 2013.
Bone grafting procedures will become much easier as soon as a new biodegradable, synthetic bone material originating from TUT is ready to hit the market. The off-the-shelf material can be sculpted to fit the patient’s anatomy even during an operation.
One to four million surgical operations, in which one or several bone grafts are used, are carried out around the world each year. Bone grafts are performed to treat severe and complicated fractures, repair facial and cranial defects, and replace bone that is lost after the removal of a tumour.
“Bone grafts can be taken from the patient’s own bone or sourced from a tissue bank. They can also be made from synthetic ceramic materials. However, these conventional bone grafting techniques are associated with complications,” says Kaarlo Paakinaho, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering at TUT.
“Harvesting a bone graft from the patient’s own body requires surgery, and the available amount of bone may be limited. Bone obtained from a tissue bank is not only expensive to process, store and transport but also involves a risk of donor-derived disease transmission. Fragile synthetic ceramics break easily and cannot be shaped to fit the defect.”
Composite material promotes bone growth
Paakinaho has been developing a synthetic composite material that induces the body to form new bone since 2011. The material guides the growth of new bone and gradually dissolves inside the body.
As the material is porous and can be bent, cut with scissors and carved with a knife, surgeons can easily customize the bone graft to fit each patient’s unique anatomy. The composite material is made by combining lactide-based polymer with bioactive ceramics.
“Bone grafting procedures become easier and faster. The long shelf-life, low cost and malleability of the composite material will make bone grafting a viable treatment option for a growing number of patients. In addition, the material enables a minimally invasive approach to bone grafting, which may reduce the risk of complications among patients. Surgeons can also choose to use the material in combination with existing implants,” Paakinaho says.
The major advantages to patients are that the composite material is readily available and eliminates the need for a second surgery to harvest bone from the patient’s body.
The material was developed during the Structural Composite for Tissues (KURKO) project funded under the Functional Materials Programme of the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes. The project ended in August 2014.
Idea grows into a business
Tekes and TUT have launched a new three-year Kurko-BoneApps (Kurko-Bone applications) project to prepare the synthetic bone material for market entry. The project partners are exploring different commercial opportunities and business models and tying up all the loose ends. Paakinaho serves as the project manager.
“Our goal is to develop an affordable and sterile synthetic bone material that accommodates individual patient anatomy, can be shipped by mail, is readily available and does not require hospitals to maintain any expensive refrigeration systems.”
The Kurko-BoneApps project is carried out in collaboration between BioMediTech, a multidisciplinary institute for life sciences and medical technology that brings together researchers from Tampere University of Technology and the University of Tampere, and the University of Helsinki.