Scientists have found that a sponge-like material is ideal for regenerating the spinal column.
We have all seen the colorful bits of material that swell up in water to form sponge creatures within no time. Scientists have employed a similar idea to create biodegradable polymer grafts.
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These could be arranged in damaged vertebrae. The important thing is that they then swell up to fit the grooves and automatically heal the vertebral column. The experts presented their scheme for spinal healing today at a conference of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
ACS is the world's largest scientific society. It is holding the meeting here through Thursday. The meeting will comprise 12,500 presentations on a wide variety of subjects. A video clip of these spinal sponges was posted on YouTube.
"The overall goal of this research is to find ways to treat people with metastatic spinal tumors," says Lichun Lu, Ph.D. "The spine is the most common site of skeletal metastases in cancer patients, but unlike current treatments, our approach is less invasive and is inexpensive."
The objective was to treat people who had metastatic spinal tumors. The spinal column is the site of tumors in cancer patients. This method was less interventionist in nature and was also relatively economical.
Usually, when tumors invade the spinal column, surgery is the first option. Many bony parts are removed. The void left behind has to be filled with a bone substitute and this is a tough dilemma for the surgeons.
Sometimes they fill the spaces and gaps via cage-like inserts or bone grafts from the frontal chest cavity. This is an assertive approach. Other times, small incisions are made in the back and titanium rods are fitted in the slots of the vertebral column.
A less expensive and more suitable substitute would be the best solution to this problem. This material could be dehydrated enough to fit into the spine from the back.
Later on, it could expand to fill the extra space by absorbing fluids from its environment. A hydrophilic cage of the material was made in the form of a scaffolding of sorts. This was then stuffed with stabilizers.
The whole crux of the game lies in titrating the size of the expandable graft material. It all lies in the way the material fits the spaces. After the removal of the tumor, the kinetics of the rate of expansion were a necessary part of the procedure.
Too quick or too slow an expansion may lead to complications. It all boiled down to the chemistry of the process. Via a modulation of the molecular weight and charge of the plastic, the material properties could be fine-tuned to fit the bill.
Such restorative surgery has to take place in a delicate manner. The procedure was tested in animals and humans are next in line to receive its application.
You can watch the brand-new video on the research below.
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Video Credit: American Chemical Society