Carbon Nanotubes May Heal Broken Bones

By Aaron Dalton

Human bones can shatter in accidents, or they can disintegrate when ravaged by disease and time. But scientists may have a new weapon in the battle against forces that damage the human skeleton. Carbon nanotubes, incredibly strong molecules just billionths of a meter wide, can function as scaffolds for bone regrowth, according to researchers led by Robert Haddon at the University of California at Riverside. They have found a way to create a stronger and safer frame than the artificial bone scaffolds currently in use. Human bones are both organic and inorganic. The organic part is made of collagen, the most abundant protein in mammals. The inorganic component is hydroxyapatite, a type of calcium crystal. The collagen forms a sort of natural scaffold over which the calcium crystals organize into bone. The idea in Haddon’s research is to use the nanotubes as substitutes for the collagen to promote new bone growth when bones have been broken or worn down.

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