Department of Biomedical Engineering
People with cranial bone defects due to injury, birth defects or surgery have traditionally been treated with bone grafts, which cannot be easily manipulated to fit within irregularly shaped defects. Without proper fit and good contact with neighboring bone tissue, defect healing is compromised.
Dr. Melissa Grunlan recently received $1.9 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue developing and testing a new shape-shifting foam designed to precisely fill and promote healing of defects.
“Bone defects can cause tremendous functional problems and aesthetic issues for individuals, so it was recognized that a better treatment would make a big impact,” says Grunlan.
The new material acts as a scaffold that temporarily supports bone healing and then dissolves, leaving behind a healed defect. It becomes malleable when exposed to warm saline, allowing it to be press-fitted and perfectly conform into the bone defect before it becomes rigid.