"We worked with a Japanese company that manufactures catalytic converters and used its facility to produce samples that we could then test in the laboratory," said Mallick. "We found we were able to use calcium phosphates, a family of bioceramics that are routinely used in bone implant operations, but by using this technique we were able to improve significantly both the strength and porosity of the implant."
The ceramic can be molded to the exact shape necessary to eliminate the bone defect. This can help in hip and knee operations and in spinal surgery, in which non-dissolvable steel and titanium have been the materials of choice. The new material's porosity allows blood vessels to swiftly honeycomb it, reducing recovery times.
"The synthetic bone we are developing," said Meredith, "is as strong as normal healthy bone yet porous enough to allow bone cells to inhabit it and generate new bone. Over a period of time, we expect the synthetic bone will resorb, leaving only natural bone. I hope that if we can find an industrial partner to take this to market, we will enable treatment of conditions which up to this point have only been possible using metal replacement parts or low strength foam-like bone substitutes."