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New Surgical Implant to Transform Treatment of Complex Bone Infections

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 30 Nov 2023
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Image: A new material reduces bacterial infection and speeds up bone healing (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: A new material reduces bacterial infection and speeds up bone healing (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Osteomyelitis, a serious bone infection, presents a significant challenge in medical treatment. Patients are usually slow to respond to standard clinical treatment, which involves weeks of antibiotics and removing the infected portion of bone tissue. Approximately 50% of bone infections are currently caused by antibiotic-resistant MRSA, underscoring the need for effective alternatives to conventional antibiotic treatments. Now, a new surgical implant with the ability to expedite the healing process of infected bones and minimize dependency on traditional antibiotics could revolutionize the treatment of complex bone infections.

Researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences (Dublin, Ireland) have engineered a unique material that mimics the composition of human bone. This material, designed as a scaffold-like structure, is intended for implantation in the areas of bone damage or infection. It facilitates the natural regeneration of bone tissue. What is particularly noteworthy is that the researchers have infused this scaffold with minute copper nanoparticles. Copper is recognized for its ability to eliminate the bacteria responsible for most bone infections. Additionally, the researchers have integrated a specific genetic molecule, an inhibitor of microRNA-138, into the scaffold. This inclusion is aimed at boosting new bone formation at the implantation site.

Laboratory experiments with the implanted scaffolds have yielded promising results. Within just two weeks, the researchers observed significant bone regrowth, and the scaffold effectively prevented 80% of harmful bacteria from colonizing the implant site. Moreover, the implant fostered robust blood circulation to cells within the scaffold, which is vital for the sustenance and growth of the new bone tissue. A significant advantage of this implant is its ability to deliver antimicrobial treatment directly to the affected bone area. Furthermore, as the bone heals, the body can naturally dissolve the implant material, eliminating the need for surgical removal. This innovative surgical implant marks a significant step in treating complex bone infections and could potentially revolutionize the standard clinical practices in this field.

“Overall, we combined the power of antimicrobial implants and gene therapies, leading to a holistic system which repairs bone and prevents infection,” said first author of the study Dr. Joanna Sadowska, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the RCSI Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG). “This makes a significant step forward in treating complex bone injuries, and the timescale we saw in our preclinical studies suggest our approach could revolutionize treatment times for patients in the future.”

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