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A Facial Surgery Reconstruction Solution? | London Facial Surgeons

New Shape-Shifting Material Could Bring End to Auto-Grafting

Surgical InstrumentsA new material has been created that could help bridge the gap between bones that can be left after facial surgical procedures. The new method uses shape-memory material to fit between areas of bone that have been moved due to different types of facial surgery. We take a look at the new technology and what it could mean for patients.

Shape-Shifting Material

Melissa Grunlan, Ph.D and her team of researchers presented findings that suggested a new type of material could be used to block gaps made between bones as a result of surgery. Previously, patients who had tumours removed or operations to correct birth defects, such as cleft palates, were left with areas between bones that needed filling using a bone graft. This involved surgeons removing areas of bone from another part of the body and attempting to reshape it to fit in the area needed. However, this process is not an exact science and it can sometimes be hard to shape the bone. Another popular approach is the use of bone putty which can be more easily shaped, however this material is not ideal as it does not promote the growth of new bone cells in the affected area and can become brittle over time.

The new material, created by Grunlan and her team, is what is known as a shape-memory polymer and is ideal for this kind of procedure. The SMP is not brittle and is malleable to the point that it can be fitted into most gaps. The best aspect of this material is that it allows for new bone cells to grow within it. The SMP becomes malleable at a heat of 140 degrees Fahrenheit making it perfect to adapt during surgery. Then, when it reaches natural body temperature, it hardens and locks into place.

New Bone Cells

The main feature of this new material that makes it such a talked-about advancement is the fact that it acts only as a scaffold. Due to the fact that it promotes and aids the growth of new bone cells, as well as being biodegradable, it disappears once the new bone cells have been formed. This is a desirable aspect as it negates the need for the patient to have any unnecessary materials left in the body.

Currently, the issues that occur within the cranio-maxillofacial area, namely the face and neck, are treated with auto-grafting which has many of the aforementioned downsides, not to mention the uncertainty that the bone removed from another area will be malleable to fit into any gap. With Melissa Grunlan’s latest technology, those recovering from any surgery in the facial area can be allowed to regenerate bone cells within the body, stopping any further grafting surgery which can often be invasive and painful. This amazing new material is expected to be one of the most popular new ways of adapting bone and making patients lives better.

November 14th, 2014 

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