A Major Stride Forward In Synthetic Bone Research

Bone injuries and diseases such as arthritis have long defied quick remedies. But investigators at the University of Pennsylvania have come up with a way to create synthetic, bonelike material rapidly. The technology, which could lead to more effective treatments for everything from fractures to various cancers, is "a major innovation," says Penn scientist Paul Ducheyne, who headed the team.

Researchers have been able to grow large amounts of hard, whitish bonelike material in a week using a mixture of bone-tissue cells, body fluids, and a special ceramic. Other scientists, says Ducheyne, have taken longer to form bonelike matter in processes that are harder to control. He says the lab-grown material could eventually replace some of the inert materials used in orthopedic treatments. Next, researchers will try to determine whether these substances will help regenerate bone in the body. If the technology proves out, he says it could be ready for human use in as little as four years.

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