Confounding clays of the Red River Valley that cause structures to shift and buckle could actually hold the key to building better bones in humans, according to a North Dakota State University (NDSU) research team.
Whether damaged by injury, disease, or age, your body can’t create new bone, but maybe science can. Researchers at NDSU are making strides in tissue engineering, designing scaffolds that may lead to ways to regenerate bone. Published recently, the research of Kalpana Katti (pictured), Dinesh Katti, and doctoral student Avinash Ambre includes a novel method that uses nanosized clays to make scaffolds to mineralize bone minerals such as hydroxyapatite.
The NDSU research team’s 3-D mesh scaffold is comprised of degradable materials that are compatible to human tissue. Over time, the cells generate bone and the scaffold deteriorates. The nanoclays enhance the mechanical properties of the scaffold by enabling scaffold to bear load while bone generates. An interesting finding by the Katti group shows that the nanoclays also impart useful biological properties to the scaffold.
“The biomineralized nanoclays also impart osteogenic or bone-forming abilities to the scaffold to enable birth of bone,” said Kalpana Katti, Distinguished Professor of civil engineering at NDSU. “Although it would have been exciting to say that this finding had a ‘Eureka moment,’ this discovery was a methodical exploration of simulations and modeling, indicating that amino acid modified nanoclays are viable new nanomaterials.” The current research findings point toward the potential use of nanoclays for broader applications in medicine.
The NDSU’s group most recent study reports that nanoclays mediate human cell differentiation into bone cells and grow bone. The Katti research group uses amino acids, the building blocks of life, to modify clay structures and the modified nanoclays coax new bone growth.
“Our current research studies under way involve the use of bioreactors that mimic fluid/blood flow in the human body during bone tissue regeneration,” Kalpana Katti said.
There is some irony that the clay so prevalent in the Red River Valley could be integral to building bone in humans. Clay likes to swell and clay likes to shrink, challenging engineers to build structures on the equivalent of shifting sands. Such clays can cause billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure worldwide, causing bridges and roads to buckle or buildings that shift or sink. But at the nanoscale level, substances exhibit very different properties. When it comes to serving as a component in bone scaffolding, nanoclays are a different story.
Bone tissue engineering represents important promise for regenerative medicine, Kalpana Katti noted. National Institutes of Health information shows that more than 1 million Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year. An aging population, in addition to orthopedic injuries of military veterans, and diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis mean that the promise of scientific research to generate human bone could have far-reaching implications in the future.
Illustration: North Dakota State University.
North Dakota State University News Release (06/05/13)
Science Daily (05/30/13)
Abstract (Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A; (02/15/13))