Silk screws could replace metal in repairing fractures

Silk screws
Screws made out of silk have significant advantages in fixing fractured bones.
Scientists have come up with a way to turn silk into screws tough enough to hold broken bones together. And being biodegradable they are unlikely to cause the problems that metal alloy screws and plates can if they corrode.

Samuel Lin at the Harvard Medical School and David Kaplan at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, report on their work in Nature Communications.

First they dissolved silk in alcohol, then poured the solution into moulds shaped like the implants and baked them.

In tests on rats, the screws were hard enough to cut their own threads through bone, just as alloy screws do.

Although there are biodegradable polymer alternatives, these too have drawbacks. They can trigger inflammation and are too soft to cut their own thread through bones – a hope has to first be drilled.

“We envision a whole set of orthopaedic devices for repair based on this – from plates and screws to almost any kind of device you can think of where you don’t want hardware left in the body,” Kaplan told the BBC. “They don’t interfere with X-rays, they don’t set off alarms and they don’t cause sensitivity to cold.”

He also said that silk could also be used to deliver antibiotics to prevent infection, or drugs that enhanced bone regrowth.


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