Plant cellulose might provide new bone material to be used for dental implants
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada: Owing to the potential complications associated with autografts, there is a need for synthetic bone tissue scaffolds. Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and McMaster University have developed a new implant material, a foamlike substance, for bone regeneration. The researchers are confident that the material can be used in dental implantology in the future.
The new material is made from chemically cross-linked plant cellulose nanocrystals to form a strong but lightweight aerogel that can compress or expand as needed to completely fill bone cavities.
“Most bone grafts or implants are made of hard, brittle ceramic that doesn’t always conform to the shape of the hole, and those gaps can lead to poor growth of the bone and implant failure,” said lead author Daniel Osorio, a doctoral student in chemical engineering at McMaster. “We created this cellulose nanocrystal aerogel as a more effective alternative to these synthetic materials.”
For their research, the team tested their material in two groups of rats, with the first group receiving the aerogel implants and the second group receiving none. Results showed that the group with implants experienced 33 percent more bone regeneration at the three-week mark and 50 percent more bone growth at the 12-week mark, compared with the controls.
“These findings show for the first time in a laboratory setting that a cellulose nanocrystal aerogel can support new bone growth,” said co-author Dr. Emily Cranston, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and President’s Excellence Chair in Forest Bioproducts at UBC. Cranston is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at McMaster. She explained that the implant should break down into nontoxic components in the body as the bone starts to heal.
The innovation can potentially fill a niche in the $2 billion bone graft market in North America, said study co-author Dr. Kathryn Grandfield, who supervised the work. She is an assistant professor both in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and at the McMaster School of Biomedical Engineering.
“We can see this aerogel being used for a number of applications, including dental implants and spinal and joint replacement surgeries,” said Grandfield. “And it will be economical, because the raw material, the nanocellulose, is already being produced in commercial quantities.”
According to the researchers, it will be some time before the aerogel makes it out of the laboratory and into the operating room. “This summer, we will study the mechanisms between the bone and implant that lead to bone growth,” said Grandfield. “We’ll also look at how the implant degrades using advanced microscopes. After that, more biological testing will be required before it is ready for clinical trials.”
The study, titled “Cross-linked cellulose nanocrystal aerogels as viable bone tissue scaffolds,” was published on March 15, 2019, in Volume 87 of Acta Biomaterialia.