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Bones go veggie: Tofu-based implants to help grow bones


A new Tofu-based biomaterial that can help mend broken bones and damaged tissues is being developed thanks to an investment of £149,000 from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), the organization that champions UK creativity and innovation.

The idea is the brainchild of Dr Matteo Santin - a senior lecturer at the University of Brighton’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Studies - who has worked in the field of biomaterials since 1991.

Many existing tissue regeneration materials are derived from animal sources and have several drawbacks, including: a high cost of production, the risk of transmitting disease and the lack of intrinsic benefits to living tissue.

De-fatted soybean curds is derived from inexpensive natural products; it actively encourages the formation of new bone growth and has a low potential for immunogenicity and it is completely biodegradable. As ever, the vegetarian option is cheaper and better for you!

The Tofu-based biomaterial could offer doctors a new surgical tool in difficult reconstructive cases. For example, dental surgeons will be able to use it as a means of combating periodontal disease – which affects millions of people in the world, yet only a small percentage receive treatment - as it allows for regeneration of the bones around weakened teeth and other dental implants.

NESTA is investing in the project through its Invention and Innovation programme, the biggest source of early stage seed funding in the UK. With this investment, the team will work with specialist medical staff to produce specific formulations for surgical applications and further substantiate the superior performance of the Tofu-based biomaterial.

As well as its use as a bone filler, the novel biomaterial also has the potential to be used in other applications, such as wound dressings. Mark White, Director of Invention and Innovation at NESTA, said:

“NESTA is delighted to be investing in the early stage development of this ground-breaking biomaterial. Cheap and simple to manufacture, the Tofu-based biomaterial is the first to integrate quickly with a patient’s own tissues, and encourage re-growth of the surrounding tissue. With NESTA support, we are confident that Matteo and his team will be able to progress the material to a real commercial opportunity.”

Joseph Meaney | alfa
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