UTSA, SwRI researchers to develop drug-loaded scaffold for bone grafting

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Bone graft

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(July 16, 2013) -- Researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) jointly announce they are investing $200,000 in new research aimed at developing a synthetic drug-loaded scaffold to use in bone grafting procedures.

More than three million musculoskeletal procedures are currently performed in the United States each year to repair bone tissue damage from trauma, congenital deformities, bone diseases and the removal of cancerous lesions.

The UTSA-SwRI bone graft substitute would be an improvement on the industry's gold standard, autologous grafting. Autologous grafting, the process of transferring bone grafts from one part of the body to another, is generally successful in particular types of bone grafting. However, challenges arise due to tissue scarcity and surgical complications. Additionally, autologous grafts are not effective in treating large bone defects.

UTSA and SwRI researchers Anson Ong, the USAA Foundation Distinguished Professor in Biomedical Engineering, and Jian Ling, staff engineer at SwRI, will use collagen and hydroxyapatite to create their synthetic scaffold. Natural bone is, in large part, made up of collagen, hydroxyapatite and water.

Their proposed scaffold would have a rigid structural framework with complementary elastic properties, making it an ideal bone substitute to endure the body's tough physiological demands. Additionally, the synthetic bone substitute would be scalable. Clinicians would be able to trim it into any shape to fit large bone defects.

Ong and Ling's unique scaffold also would include drug-microparticles. Those microparticles would release active growth factors in a controlled manner over time, causing stem cells to become bone cells to which the implanted scaffold would fuse.

If successful, the new product would tap the unmet needs of an annual $2.5 billion bone graft market.

Ling has more than 19 years of experience in biomedical research, including the development of collagen- hydroxyapatite composite scaffolds. Ong is an established expert in the field of bone-biomaterial tissue interfaces.

The Connect Program, an annual UTSA-SwRI joint funding initiative, was established in 2010 to stimulate inter-organizations research between UTSA scholars and SwRI investigators in fields such as advanced materials, chemistry and chemical engineering, energy, the environment, security and manufacturing.