Spider Silk for Fixing Broken Bones: No More Additional Surgeries


Silk produced by the spiders or silkworm are known to have great tensile strength, elasticity and essentially bio-compatible. Medical researchers would very soon are going to use silk produced from these insects for fixing broken bones. Until now, metal screws, plates or biodegradable ones were being used for mending the bones. But now with this breakthrough invention we can have devices made up of silk for mending bones

This not the first time that the silk is being employed in the surgeries, earlier sponges, foam, fibers have already been used, however development of the solid device using silk is first of its kind.

The metal or the biodegradable plates or screws that were employed far in the surgeries had some drawbacks associated with them. The metal alloys were susceptible to corrosion, leading to infection and the patient needs to undergo another surgery to get them removed after the bones get fixed. They are also stiff and often cause stress on the underlying bones. On the other hand, the screws or plates made from biodegradable materials are rather difficult for the surgeons to implant them into the bone and there has been reports of inflammation caused by them.

These surgical issues can now be easily averted with the introduction of the silk screws, which are equally stronger and safer than the traditional materials used so far.

silk screws

The researchers Samuel Lin from the Harvard School and David Kaplan from Tufts University are among the first, to conduct the research work on the process of restoring bones using silk screws. In the process, the silk obtained from the cocoon of the silkworm, was dissolved in an alcohol solution and transferred this solution into molds. These molds were later baked to create the implants. These implants were characteristically strong and durable.

These implants were tested in rats and the researchers discovered that the silk screws were effective and as good as their metal counterparts and biodegradable as screw made from polymer. Along with these, silk made implants did not pose any danger of inflammation. The author of the research says that results from the test conducted on the femur bone of rat showed that the silk screws are self-tapping, can be secured in the bone for 4-8 weeks, biodegradable and aids in bone repairing.

The silk devices can be comfortably implanted in the bones, fit in the mending site, ease of sterilization and almost no risk of inflammation. The silk-based devices can also be infused with therapeutics or antibiotics and thus are spread over the healing site, preventing from any infection and over the time, can be easily absorbed by the body.

The researchers hope for starting the clinical trial soon. They hope that the technology can be used in a variety of bone fractures. The trail will start with larger animals and them to be tested on humans. This new silk devices have a promising future, which includes minimal complication of infection or inflammation and light on the pocket as the patients need not have to undergo any additional surgeries to get them removed.

Photo credit: newscientist.com

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