A miracle bandage that mends broken bones has been created by British scientists.
The bio-material dramatically speeds up healing – and is set to revolutionise the treatment of fractures.
Embedded with two types of cells, it can be stuck onto an injury “like a plaster,” say the team.
The technique, described in the journal Nature Materials, could also be used to fix other damaged tissues and organs.
Lead author Dr Shukry Habib, of King’s College London, said: “Our technology is the first to engineer a bone-like tissue from human bone stem cells in the lab within one week and successfully transplant it in the defect to initiate and accelerate repair.”
It offers hope of less pain, complications, infections and poor outcomes for serious injuries. Clinical trials are already being planned.
The chemical cocktail includes stem cells – master cells that can turn into any type of tissue or organ – and mature bone cells.
They are coated in a protein used throughout the body for growth and repair to simulate parts of the healthy bone.
Dr Habib said: “This bandage can be stuck to the fracture like a plaster and enhance the bone’s natural ability to heal – which speeds up the repair process.”
Pensioners and those in late middle age are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries, as bone loses its ability to heal with age.
But professional athletes, soldiers and others who need to recover from bone damage as quickly as possible for their career could also find it useful.
Dr Habib said: “This new method improves repair and may change how broken bones are treated.”
It can be accelerated even more by generating bone cells in a three-dimensional gel on the bandage – and transplanting it into the fracture.
Dr Habib said: “The breakthrough could make a drastic difference in recovery times for patients with serious bone fractures.
“The healing process from a serious fracture can be slow or can even fail in vulnerable patients such as the elderly or those with underlying health conditions.”
Current methods to repair bone is to use synthetic implants or donor tissue – where bone is taken from elsewhere in the body – to repair the break.
This relies on the body’s own capability to heal – which can be weakened after serious injury.
Cell-based therapies – where additional cells are grown and introduced into the fracture – have so far appeared promising.
But the implanted cells in existing technologies often die and lack long term support of the healing bone.
The ‘bone-like bandage’ supports the survival and bone forming ability of these extra stem and bone cells throughout the healing process.
It was designed at Dr Habib’s lab at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine to specifically target the fracture – and does not leak to the healthy tissue.
The bandages can even be made biodegradable to simply be absorbed by the body when healing has finished.
These safety features – and the powerful effect of the bandages – means they could have the potential to be used in hospitals.
Dr Habib’s group will be taking the bone-bandages into clinical trials following successful experiments on the skulls of mice jusing human cells.
He said: “The newly forming bone is structurally comparable to mature cortical bone and consists of human and murine cells.”
The researchers aim to develop the concept further to boost healing across the board.
Dr Habib added: “The concept of the 3D-engineered tissue and the bandage has the potential to be developed to different injured tissues and organs.”