A study presented at a conference of the American Chemical Society states that scientists have developed a sponge–like biodegradable polymer graft that can regenerate the spinal column. Scientists claim that the grafts can be surgically placed in the damaged vertebrae wherein, it can grow to the right size to fix the damaged area.
Researchers came up with this noble idea by observing colourful bits of material that swell up in water to form sponge–like creatures in no time. “The overall goal of this research is to find ways to treat people with metastatic spinal tumours,” said Lichun Lu of Mayo Clinic in US. Since spine is a common area of chemical metastases in cancer patients, researchers cross–linked oligo (poly fumarate) to design a hollow hydrophilic cage with stabilising materials. This expandable material would then be fitted in the space left behind, after the tumour is removed.
However, scientists also needed to control the expansion of the polymer because if the polymer expands too quickly, then the surgeon would have less time to position it correctly. Therefore, scientists modulated the molecular weight and charge of the polymer so that the material could fit exactly in the place left vacant by the tumour.