Human bones can regenerate after slight damage but outside help is required when fractures are too serious. This is still achieved mostly through the use of metal nails and similar components. While these components have proved their effectiveness over time, one serious disadvantage is the need for a second operation to take them out when mending is completed.
Bioimplants provide an alternative solution and will make a second surgical intervention unnecessary. However, the new materials and implants that can be used in cases of major bone breaks have to meet various requirements to qualify for therapeutic use. Jose Ramon Sarasua-Oiz and Aitor Larranaga-Espartero of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country have been engaged in studying new materials and implants, looking to develop tailor-made bioimplants. Their latest publication details the finding of their study into the effect of bioglass on the thermal stability of polymers with current medical application.
To qualify for medical use, new implants must be made from materials that are biocompatible and biodegradable. The two researchers have been working on a composite system based on a biodegradable polymer. Since the polymer is too soft, they have added bioglass to create a strong composite. The problem is that the composite was found to have lower thermal stability in comparison to systems with no bioglass. Given the use of heat in the manufacturing process, Sarasua and Larranaga are now looking for ways to improve that stability. They propose using plasma to trigger a chemical transformation of the bioglass surface. This will cover the bioglass particles with protective layers, preventing the reaction between the silicon oxide ions of the bioglass and the polymer´s carbonyl groups and the subsequent degradation of the final product.