A new ceramic bone graft material has been patented by Dr Wei-Jen Lo, founder of Orthogem limited, that not only results in rapid, high quality bone growth, but also retains the structural integrity of the implant site while the ceramic implant is gradually replaced by natural bone.
Creating synthetic bone material that accurately mimics the complex, multi-layered porous structure of human bone is one of the greatest challenges in the biomaterials field. Previous materials have been met with scepticism by surgeons, who use bone grafts in around two million orthopaedic procedures worldwide each year. Bone grafts require the patient to have a second operation to harvest bone, which is costly, painful, risky and time-consuming.
The Orthogem synthetic bone uses hydroxyapatite, ß-TCP (tricalcium phosphate) or a combination of both ceramics depending on the application. The material and its porosity have been carefully designed to maximise the movement and attachment of bone cells within the implant. Recent trials at University College London’s Centre for Biomedical Engineering showed that Orthogem’s synthetic implants result in rapid new bone growth that is organised, well vascularised and of an extremely high quality. The synthetic bone was replaced with woven bone (scar) and collagen fibres that were randomly oriented. In turn, woven bone was replaced by osteoblasts (bone replacing cells) to create well vascularised lamellar or long bone.
The bone manufacturing procedure itself is a major breakthrough, and details can not be released during the patenting process. Dr Lo said, ‘It’s exciting to see Orthogem develop from a scientific concept to a practical material with real potential to replace the frankly medieval technique of harvesting a patient’s own bone.’
In future, the material could also carry engineered drugs such as bone morphogenic proteins to enhance the healing process.