Scientists are using polymers to help prevent the hardening of soft tissue that often occurs following orthopedic surgery and amputations.
The research team — led by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) — received a financial boost in the form of a $2.93 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, mainly because so many soldiers suffer bone trauma. But the research will help the civilian population as well, reports R&D.
Jeffrey Hollinger, professor of biomedical engineering and biological sciences and head of CMU’s Bone Tissue Engineering Center, says:
Our tactic is to develop a solution that will control the pathological growth of bone in muscle and tendons (called heterotopic ossification) that frequently occurs following bone trauma and orthopedic surgery. When bone is severely injured and amputation of a limb is necessary, or as a consequence of major orthopedic procedures, unwanted new bone formation occurs in the soft tissues surrounding the operated bone and appears as pieces of gravel-like bone. Consequently, there is pain and discomfort at an amputation stump where a prosthesis is secured. We are developing a therapy that will eliminate heterotopic ossification.
Studies have shown that ossification occurs in more than 60% of soldiers who have bone injuries that result in amputation. The research team also will include scientists at the United States Military Academy, the University of Michigan, and the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, VA.
The team plans on using a nanostructural polymer composite to deliver unique RNA into cells at the bone trauma location with the aim of preventing the ossification in the soft tissue. “The problem of heterotopic ossification is more widespread than the military population,” Hollinger says.
Ossificiation also occurs in more than 90% of hip replacement operations in civilian populations. J. Kenneth Wickiser, director of the Center for Molecular Science in the Department of Chemistry & Life Science at the United States Military Academy, says:
We see this collaborative research as a win for both military and civilian populations. And we see this particular research project as a great way to help us change our research paradigm at West Point. Our cadets are gaining invaluable hands-on research experience as summer interns at CMU’s biomedical engineering labs. And we are becoming more competitive in our abilities at West Point to tackle more innovative research initiatives.
Source: “Nanostructural polymer-based treatment may ease pain of combat injuries,” R&D, 9/4/12
Image by Virginia Reza.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.