A new invention may make things easier for patients with serious bone injuries.
From wounded warriors to cancer patients to accident victims, there are an estimated 500,000 bone graft procedures every year in the U.S.
The bone graft breakthrough takes its cue from a most unusual source: an ingredient found in carpet padding.
Instead of having to use a patient’s own bones or a cadaver source, researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio are developing something similar to help build bones, using a medical grade of polyurethane foam, the porous, spongy stuff you can find in everything from toys to carpet padding.
Dr. Joo Ong, a professor of biomedical engineering, co-invented the bone scaffold. He says it can be used instead of bone grafts for injuries as small as five millimeters.
Calcium phosphate, the mineral found naturally in bone, coats the polyurethane foam. Then it’s put in a furnace. Less than 24 hours later, the foam burns away. The calcium phosphate takes its shape, hardening into a scaffold.