Suppose you break a bone, and go to the emergency room. Imagine that a doctor
there could start growing your bone back. As this ScienCentral News video
reports, one nanotechnologist says he’s taken a big step towards making
this medical miracle real.
According to the National
Center for Health Statistics, more than half of all injuries that befall
Americans every year involve a broken
bone or an injured joint. As the huge baby-boom generation continues to
pass the age of 50, bone and joint injuries affect the lives of many more
people. As people age and their bones grow thinner, fractures can cripple
At present, the solution to arthritic, cancerous or injured bones and joints
is stainless-steel replacements. Metal can match the strength of natural bone,
but it is heavy and inflexible—not to mention embarrassing when your new
knee triggers security alarms at airport checkpoints.
At Northwestern University,
I. Stupp thinks that a material designed to match bone more closely than
metal could encourage natural bone cells to form layers around it and speed
healing. Stupp, director of Northwestern’s Institute
for Bioengineering and Nanoscience in Advanced Medicine,
that nanotechnology can lead to regenerative medicine, where the body
heals itself. He likes to mimic nature by working from the bottom up: “We
design molecules so that they organize themselves into new materials to solve
medical problems”—like the challenge of making bone that grows back.