The American Chemical Society believes that this new nanoscience research has a bright future for orthopedic surgery:
Scientists have shown for the first time that carbon nanotubes make an ideal scaffold for the growth of bone tissue. The new technique could change the way doctors treat broken bones, allowing them to simply inject a solution of nanotubes into a fracture to promote healing.
The report appears in the June 14 issue of the American Chemical Society’s journal Chemistry of Materials. ACS is the world’s largest scientific society.
The success of a bone graft depends on the ability of the scaffold to assist the natural healing process. Artificial bone scaffolds have been made from a wide variety of materials, such as polymers or peptide fibers, but they have a number of drawbacks, including low strength and the potential for rejection in the body.
“Compared with these scaffolds, the high mechanical strength, excellent flexibility and low density of carbon nanotubes make them ideal for the production of lightweight, high-strength materials such as bone,” says Robert Haddon, Ph.D., a chemist at the University of California, Riverside, and lead author of the paper. Single-walled carbon nanotubes are a naturally occurring form of carbon, like graphite or diamond, where the atoms are arranged like a rolled-up tube of chicken wire. They are among the strongest known materials in the world…
Simple single-walled carbon nanotubes are not sufficient, since the growth of hydroxyapatite crystals relies on the ability of the scaffold to attract calcium ions and initiate the crystallization process. So the researchers carefully designed nanotubes with several chemical groups attached. Some of these groups assist the growth and orientation of hydroxyapatite crystals, allowing the researchers a degree of control over their alignment, while other groups improve the biocompatibility of nanotubes by increasing their solubility in water.