"The gel is a brand new material engineered molecule by molecule, not just mixed together," said lead researcher Dror Seliktar of the Technion Department of Biomedical Engineering, adding that while the two components are relatively cheap and readily available, "it's the way we engineer them that represents a breakthrough."

Orthopedic surgeons currently use biological materials such as collagen and fibrin to stimulate tissue growth in bone injuries. These materials tend to leach out of the injury site long before the healing is complete. As a result, the injury may take longer to heal completely.

Seliktar explains that the difference in the new gel lies in the unique combination of natural and synthetic molecules used to engineer the new material. Synthetic materials provide enough strength to remain in the injury site but are limited in their ability to promote healing. Biological materials are too weak to stay affixed for the duration of the healing process.

Instead of using one or the other he used the protein fibrin and attached a synthetic material called polyethylene glycol to it, a plastic used in contact lenses and other biomedical applications.

The result is a three-dimensional material with the biological properties of fibrin and the strength of plastic, providing structural support and encouraging tissue growth. Since the bone cells come in contact with fibrin, they are "tricked" into also accepting its synthetic partner. The gel can be adjusted to different strengths and degradation rates according to its intended application.

Injected into the damaged area, the broken bone fuses within the gel, which at that point breaks down and is excreted in the urine. While metallic pins and plates will still be necessary to affix the bone fragments, the gel will facilitate bone regeneration so that these metallic parts will remain in place for a shorter duration.

MEDICA.de; Source: American Technion Society