For soldiers with severe bone injuries and people born with bone defects, the options aren’t great. Typically, repair and reconstruction involves transplanting bone from one part of the body to another. That’s extremely painful and even then, it’s hard to extract enough bone. It would be better to use growth factor proteins that induce bone repair, but it’s been impossible to deliver them in a controlled way. Now, researchers have developed a 1mm-thin polymer membrane (pictured) that, when positioned at the damage site, releases one type of protein quickly and another slowly, over several days, to provide exquisite control over bone regrowth. Once the job's done the membrane disintegrates. When the technique was tested on rats with skull defects, it produced a layer of healthy bone in two weeks. The next step is to try it in larger animals in the hope of one day testing it in humans.
Written by Daniel Cossins