Dissolving an implant that resembles a plaster helps broken bones heal faster

Scientists have developed an ‘electric’ implant that helps broken bones heal faster before they dissolve.

Placed over a fracture, the device, which resembles a band-aid, generates a mild electrical current to speed healing.

In animal studies, a fractured tibia (tibia) was completely knit together in just six weeks when the 1cm long implant was used, but took at least ten weeks if it wasn’t.

After 18 weeks, there was no sign of the implant, which is made of a biodegradable man-made material called polylactic-co-glycolic acid, or PLGA, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported earlier this month.

Every year the NHS treats hundreds of thousands of fractures. If it’s a small fracture, with no damage to the surrounding bone, and the two ends are aligned, the affected area can heal on its own.

Placed over a fracture, the device, which resembles a band-aid, generates a mild electrical current to speed healing [File photo]

The body forms a blood clot around the fracture to protect it and over the next few weeks, this clot turns into a semi-rigid structure called a callus, which protects bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) as they fill the gap between two broken bone ends. .

In children and young adults, a small fracture can heal within weeks. But as we get older, the process takes longer.

Doctors have known for years that zapping damaged bone with low electrical impulses speeds healing by stimulating the release of growth factors that promote repair. This usually involves placing electrodes connected to a small power supply on the patient’s skin. The electrical pulses then travel through the skin to the fracture site and stimulate cell growth.

But the treatment can take several hours a day for several weeks, making it time-consuming and therefore unappealing to patients. Other techniques include surgical implants that later need to be removed under anaesthetic.

The new device could be much more convenient as it requires no batteries or external power source. It also does not need to be removed afterwards. Instead, the PLGA degrades over time.

The implant gets its power from an electrical charge, known as piezoelectricity, which is generated in the bone itself when subjected to stress or compression – whether walking, standing or leaning your head on your hand .

Miniature electrodes in the implant take this charge, store it, and then use it to deliver a current to the site.

The bone is repaired within weeks and the broken down PLGA is passed on as waste. The scientists who developed the gadget at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the US, now hope to test it on humans in three to five years and make it available to patients.

Hamish Simpson, professor of orthopedics and trauma at the University of Edinburgh and chair of the British Orthopedic Association’s Inquiry Committee, said: ‘New techniques to heal fractures are welcome. But it is not yet clear that this will work better than existing devices.’

Safer painkillers made from sunflower seeds

Sunflower seed extract shows promise as a safer alternative to opioids, offering pain relief without their side effects, researchers in Austria say.

The seeds are a traditional pain reliever, the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry reports, and the extract has been found to target a brain receptor that helps control pain. This receptor works in the same way as the receptor activated by opioid medications – without causing addiction.

Now, in studies on mice at the Medical University of Vienna and two Australian centers, scientists found that a version of this extract could reduce abdominal pain.

Exercise really improves sleep, say scientists at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. In a study of 114 women, those in better shape slept on average about half an hour longer and had better sleep quality — possibly because they felt relaxed, the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reports.

Silver foil fights the spread of bacteria in hospitals

Wrapping hospital surfaces in silver foil may help reduce the spread of infection, say researchers at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland.

The foil, made of silver particles based on polyvinyl chloride or PVC (which is different from the aluminum foil used at home), had 60 times less bacteria on the surface than uncovered surfaces. Silver has previously been found to have antimicrobial properties.

The researchers told the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases conference this month that the foil could help prevent the spread of disease during pandemics and in sensitive areas of the hospital, such as transplant units.

Wrapping hospital surfaces in silver foil may help reduce the spread of infection, say researchers at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland

Wrapping hospital surfaces in silver foil may help reduce the spread of infection, say researchers at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland

Australian researchers are developing an online calculator that will calculate an individual’s risk of bone fractures and subsequent premature death.

Age, bone density, history and other health conditions are used to determine a person’s “skeletal age” score, which aims to “encourage them to talk to their doctor about how to better manage their condition,” eLife magazine reports.

Bone-strengthening therapies range from osteoporosis medications to exercise. Every year 75,000 Britons break a hip, a third die within 12 months.

A simple life

Small changes that can make a big difference to health. This week: Meal planning

Not only does it mean you won’t be staring at your empty shelves with a rumbling stomach, meal planning can also make your diet healthier.

A study of more than 40,000 people in France found that those who planned meals ate a wider variety of healthier foods and were less likely to be obese. The researchers, from Sorbonne University, asked participants to complete a questionnaire about their diet, lifestyle and shopping patterns.

The results, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, suggested that meal planning prevents you from not knowing what to eat — often a reason not to cook — and thus reduces the need for takeout or ready-to-eat foods. .

rude health

Covid-19 can damage the blood vessels that supply the penis, researchers have found. When tissue samples were taken from four patients with erectile dysfunction, two of whom had had Covid, they revealed that the inflammation and blood vessel damage caused by Covid also affect the genitals, the World Journal of Men’s Health reports.

happy hour

Daily activities that stimulate happiness hormones. This week: Petting an animal

According to a study from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, petting a dog for just three minutes can help boost your levels of the calming hormone oxytocin. The researchers found that levels of the hormone rose by 7.5 percent, the journal Frontiers in Psychology reported in 2017.

“Research shows that you don’t have to be the owner of the animal to feel the effects of the release of oxytocin, but the effects are stronger when you are tied up,” says Dr Jan Hoole, a biology teacher and specialist in animal behaviour. pets from Keele University.

She adds that dogs also experience a rise in oxytocin levels when interacting with owners — “and it’s likely to increase the bond — but they have to enjoy the interaction for this to happen,” she says.

Good Health Nominated for Oscars for Medical Journalism

Good Health has been nominated in four different categories in the prestigious Medical Journalists’ Association Awards, the Oscars for health journalism.

Writer Fiona MacRae has been nominated for the hotly contested Freelance of the Year award — including two Good Health articles, praised by the jury for making “complex scientific process accessible to the general reader.”

Jo Waters’ feature film about a mental health nurse who “fighted her own demons” has been nominated for Mental Health Story of the Year.

And a ‘great piece’ by Lucy Elkins, ‘the doctors still crippled by Covid six months after they contracted it’, has been nominated for Case Study of the Year.

Justine Hancock, editor of Good Health, has been nominated for Editor of the Year, for curating content appropriate for “turbulent times.”

The winners will be announced on September 22.

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