Researchers have engineered a bandage that captures and holds a pro-healing molecule at the site of a bone break to accelerate callus formation and vascularization to achieve better bone repair by three weeks. The research points toward a general method for improving bone repair after damage that could be applied to medical products, such as biodegradable bandages, implant coatings, or bone grafts for critical defects.
The body naturally floods the area around a new bone injury with the pro-healing adenosine molecules, but those locally high levels are quickly metabolized and don't last long. Adenosine is ubiquitous throughout the body in low levels and performs many important functions that have nothing to do with bone healing. To avoid unwanted side effects, the adenosine must be localized to the damaged tissue and at appropriate levels.
The solution was to let the body dictate the levels of adenosine while helping the biochemical stick around the injury a little bit longer. A biomaterial bandage was applied directly to the broken bone that contains boronate molecules that grab onto the adenosine; however, the bonds between the molecules do not last forever, which allows a slow release of adenosine from the bandage without accumulating elsewhere in the body.
Porous biomaterials incorporated with boronates are capable of capturing the local surge of adenosine following an injury. Test results show that not only do the adenosine-trapping bandages promote healing, but they also work whether they're trapping native adenosine or are artificially loaded with it, which has important implications in treating bone fractures associated with aging and osteoporosis.
Other applications include a biodegradable bandage that traps adenosine to help heal broken bones and then decomposes into the body. For osteoporotic patients, a permanent bandage can be reloaded with adenosine at sites that suffer from repeated injuries. A lubricating gel armed with adenosine can help prevent bone injuries caused by the wear and tear associated with reconstructive joint surgeries or other medical implants.