We think of eggshells as fragile. Yet these thin, easily breakable shells may be the key to making better, stronger bone grafts for humans.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) have developed a method of using microscopic particles of pulverized eggshells to help grow new bone. Since eggshells are made mostly from calcium carbonate, a material we already have in our bones, the researchers hope it will be more readily accepted by the body. The material could one day be used to help repair bones impacted by accidents, birth defects or disease.
[Researcher Gulden] Camci-Unal’s method, recently described in the journal Biomaterials Science, involves using crushed eggshell particles to reinforce hydrogels—networks of polymers that can hold large amounts of water while maintaining their structure. By themselves, the hydrogels are soft and squishy; the eggshells help strengthen them. The material then serves as 3D scaffolds for osteoblasts, or bone cells.
Using eggshells was appealing in its simplicity, Camci-Unal says. It’s not something synthetic that needs to be engineered in a lab. It’s readily available.
“We’re trying to take a simpler approach here, which can both benefit the environment and biomedical science,” she says.
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