Plastic Implants: A Novel Way to Heal Broken Bones

Plastic Implants: A Novel Way to Heal Broken Bones


– [Announcer] Next up, Pranav
Kalelkar from chemistry. Speaking on plastic implants,
a novel way to heal bones. – Do you know, approximately
six million people in the U.S. suffer from
bone defects every year? These are our soldiers, our athletes, our neighbors, our family members, or it could be any of us. Now the common strategy to
treat major bone defects involves use of metal implants. However that strategy
has several drawbacks, such as rejection of the implant by the patients body, or loosening and detachment of the implant
from the insertion site. To overcome all of these limitations, I work on developing plastic implants to regenerate broken bone. Now I can imagine this idea might sound like science fiction, but believe me, it is a very viable
strategy, and that is because our body has cells that have the capacity to develop new bone, but because the gap between broken bone is very large in major bone injuries, these cells lack structural support to heal them. So the hypothesis of my research is that, if we can fabricate an implant that would provide structural
support for these cells, then by inserting that implant at the site of injury, we can facilitate natural bone healing to take place. Also, if this implant is designed out of a modified material that will dissolve out as the new
bone is being formed, once the injury has healed, there won’t be any foreign object left in the body. To design such an implant,
we have chemically modified a special type of plastic
which is compatible with our body, that can
be degraded by our body. This plastic is a long chain molecule having reactive functional groups as shown by these red pyramids, that can be used to couple a special type of biological molecule show
by the yellow pac-man figure. Now, why couple this biological molecule? Well, this biological molecule has a strong affinity for the
bone making cells of the body. So by coupling these biological molecules onto the plastic, we
provide a site of attachment for these cells onto the plastic. So you can imagine an implant fabricated out of such a modified material with these biological molecules in the interior, would
provide structural support to these cells to regenerate bone. Now these are exciting
times, because so far in my research I have successfully
prepared this plastic, modified it with biological molecules, and am currently optimizing the implant fabrication process. But that is not it, along with that I have prepared a family
of such modified plastics, that have applications
beyond bone-healing. For example, by coupling
anti-microbial agents onto it, I have made an anti-microbial plastic that has applications in
food packaging industry. While in another project,
by coupling drug molecules onto it, I am working on developing a drug delivery system for targeted delivery of drugs in the body. But most importantly,
these modified plastics have better thermal properties that takes us one step closer to making global use of
eco-friendly plastics a reality. Healing bone is just the start. Thank you. (applause)

Author: Kevin Mason

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