A simple fracture in our wrists, ankle or hip can take months to mend but now chemical engineering researchers are working with scientists at the Kids Research Institute at Westmead children’s hospital investigating ways of using our own body sugars to speed up the healing process.
The team is working with sugars found in our DNA to develop ‘carriers’ that can be used to deliver active compounds to a bone fracture site.
At the moment bone fractures are most commonly treated with porous implants or tissue from the patient’s own body, or that of a donor. The procedures involve invasive operations, hospitalisation and long-term rehabilitation.
Farid Mirmohseni, a 23-year-old PhD candidate in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering who has made the project the focus of his thesis, says:
“Our aim is to enable the sugar-based carriers to get to the damaged area as quickly as possible, and release these active ingredients in a controlled manner.
“The process, known as angiogenicity, is vital for the growth and development of an organism, as well as for wound and bone repair,” explains Farid.
“The innovation of our project is the development of targeted injectable formulations that rapidly convert into a highly viscous solid, like a gluey gel.
The glue-like substance will be biodegradable and can be used for the sustained release of compounds such as, peptides, angiogenic, anti-resorptives, anti-inflammatory, ceramic and anti-biotic compounds.
“Think of it like this: it will be like parachuting emergency aid into the area they are most urgently needed.”
With the incidence of bone disorders on the rise, due to aging populations, increased obesity levels and reduced physical activity, the research is critical.
Professor Fariba Dehghani, Director of the ARC Food Processing Training Centre in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Farid’s PhD supervisor says:
“In cases of severe bone fracture or incorrect treatment, bone union doesn’t always happen, leading to a condition called non-union. When successful, our final product would remove many of the hurdles linked to classic bone fracture treatments and associated difficulties.
Collaborating researcher David Little, Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health from the Kids Research Institute, says:
“Our carrier will be easily injected into a desirable part of the body and rapidly convert to a solid form. Then it will gradually degrade into deoxyribose to boost blood vessel formation and release the active compounds.”
The application of the injectable superglue-like formulation could also be used as treatment for large bone defects. It can also be used for the rapid repair of other damaged tissues such as skin and heart.”
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