Developing an injectable medical device to heal ‘non-union’ bone fractures

Disease - Traumatic fracture, other surgical techniques, joint replacement

Lead applicant - Professor Helen McCarthy

Organisation - Queen's University Belfast

Type of grant - Translation

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £100,000

Start date - 1 December 2019

Reference - 22411

What are the aims of this research?

There are around 900,000 fractures reported every year within the UK, 45,000 of which have problems with healing which leads to a ‘non-union’ fracture. These non-union fractures cause reduced bone function, disability, pain and lower quality of life. Non-union fractures are also associated with an increased risk of injury-related arthritis. Existing bone repair technologies are sometimes ineffective, meaning a there is a clinical need for new treatments to be developed

Why is this research important?

This project aims to develop a new repair technology. This will be a medical device consisting of nano-sized particles of hydroxyapatite (a mineral naturally found in bone) and an injectable gel material. This combination would be injected into the fracture area to improve the healing of the non-union. Hydroxyapatite is already used in bone repair and has shown some promise however it has limitations, for example it’s negative charge which can make it less readily available in the body. This research aims to tackle these limitations by modifying the hydroxyapatite with molecules to change the charge and therefore improve its bone repair potential.

The researchers plan to develop their technology by finding the best dose of particles, checking its safety, assessing bone repair potential and observing the distribution of the particles around the body after injection. To do this, researchers will test the medical device in rats.

How will the findings benefit patients?

This research is still in early stages. If the development using animal models is promising, it may progress onto human clinical trials. If clinical trials are successful, this medical device may improve the quality of bone fracture repair, making it easier, faster and more controllable. This can reduce the need for surgery and help restore bone function for patients, whilst also reducing the risk of arthritis developing.