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December 12, 2010

An artificial bone-like material could speed up recovery from injury

MIT Technology Review - Thomas Webster, an associate professor of engineering at Brown University, has developed a nanomaterial that quickly solidifies at body temperature into a bone-like substance. This week, Brown announced a deal with medical device maker Audax Medical of Littleton, Massachusetts, to further develop the material and launch trials in animals.

The material contains the same nucleic acids as DNA, Webster says. Each molecule has two covalent bonds and links with other molecules to form a tube. Hence it's called a "twin-base linker." (Audax will develop it under the name Arxis.)


"It self-assembles into a nano structure, emulates natural tissue, solidifies quickly at body temperature, and can be made to match the mechanical properties of the tissue you inject it into," Webster says.

Today, metal plates are often inserted to provide strength and support while bones, such as the hip joint, slowly heal. But the metal degrades over time, and particularly in younger patients, it may eventually have to be replaced. Khademhosseini says tissue engineers are looking for materials that will better integrate with the body and last longer. If Webster succeeds in developing such a material to replace metal entirely, that would transform the field, he says.

Audax will begin testing Arxis in the hip and knee, according to company president and CEO Mark Johanson. Johanson hopes to have the first product ready for market in 2013. The company recently raised $1 million and plans to raise more capital soon, Johanson says. If Arxis is injectable on an outpatient basis, the sales volume will be high and the price relatively low, Johanson predicts. An injection is likely to run $1,000 to $1,500.



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