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Bone tissue from the test tube

FAU materials scientists participate in European research project

Manufacturing an artificially produced material as a medical substitute for human bone tissue with micro capsules containing medication which speed up the healing process: this is one of the objectives of ITN Biobone – a new European research project in which scientists from the Department of Materials Science (Biomaterials) at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) are participating. Together with a consortium of partners from research and industry, the scientists are developing bioactive glasses, bioceramics and new composite materials for orthopaedics, surgery and regenerative medicine. The project is being funded with approximately 3.7 million euros by the European Commission over a period of four years.

“The research conducted at my department involves the development of bioactive ceramics and multifunctional glasses which can be used for bone tissue engineering,” says Professor Dr. Aldo R. Boccaccini, Chair of the Department for Materials Science (Biomaterials) at FAU. Tissue engineering is the process of manufacturing biological tissue artificially. Usually, researchers extract cells from the patient which are then cultivated in the laboratory, proliferated and re-transplanted into the patient. Using this technique, diseased tissue can be replaced with healthy tissue.

Professor Boccaccini and his team are developing bioactive glasses which are to be used in tissue engineering to form the structure of the new bone tissue. “It is important that the artificially manufactured material can be attached both to hard bone and to soft tissue directly,” explains Professor Boccaccini. This is why the artificial bone structure must mimic human bone material as far as possible, for example in terms of its surface properties or durability.”

In addition, the materials scientist plans to insert into the bone structure either fibres measuring only a few nanometres or micro capsules containing antibiotics or growth hormones. The medication will be released into the body when the carrying material (porous, bioactive glass construction) dissolves. “We still need to conduct further research into whether any residual substances are left within the body,” says Professor Boccaccini.

The ITN Biobone project
The multidisciplinary consortium participating in the ITN Biobone project consists of six partners from universities and research institutes and four industrial partners from Germany, England, France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. The scientists involved in the project have expertise in the manufacturing, characterisation and use of bioceramics and bioactive glasses for medical applications. The coordinating institute is the Imperial College London, where Professor Boccaccini is currently a guest professor.

A further objective of the ITN Biobone project is promoting interdisciplinary training for young scientists in the fields of bioceramics and tissue engineering. This interdisciplinary training is essential for scientific exchange concerning the manufacture and comprehensive characterisation of innovative biomaterials for bone regeneration and advanced biomaterials for orthopaedic applications.

Further information for the press:

Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Aldo R. Boccaccini
Tel.: 09131/85-28600
aldo.boccaccini@ww.uni-erlangen.de

uni | media service | research No. 21/2012 on 22.5.2012

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