Engineers at Tufts University have proven that their biodegradable scaffold for grafting works. The silk micron-sized fibers reinforces a silk matrix and can be used to repair bone and tissue, perhaps more effectively than current autologous grafts. The engineers created the 10- to 20-µm fibers in just one minute (typical processing creates microfibers that are more than 100 µm in nearly 12 minutes).
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According to a research paper written by the researchers, about 1.3 million people in the United States undergo bone graft procedures annually (Their work can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition this week). Donor grafts introduce potential complications such as disease and rejection; biomaterials used for bone regeneration (e.g. collagen) aren't strong.
The scaffold created at Tufts bonds silk protein microfibers to a silk protein scaffold, creating a stronger material that mimics the mechanics of native bone.“By adding the microfibers to the silk scaffolds, we get stronger mechanical properties as well as better bone formation. Both structure and function are improved,” said David Kaplan, PhD, chair of biomedical engineering at Tufts University, in a university release. “This approach could be used for many other tissue systems where control of mechanical properties is useful and has broad applications for regenerative medicine.”