Copper makes it easier to treat bone infection

Reference image. Sculpture at the Courthouse Plaza Miners’ Memorial. Photo by Scotwriter, Wikimedia Commons.

Irish researchers found a way to treat osteomyelitis, a particularly difficult-to-treat bone infection, using copper.

In a paper published in the journal Biomaterials, the scientists explain that the method they are using to treat the infection involves an implant designed specifically for bone repair into which they incorporate copper particles and bioactive glass.

The study’s first author Emily Ryan, a recently qualified Ph.D. student in the RCSI Department of Anatomy, pictured with Prof Fergal O’Brien, Professor of Bioengineering & Regenerative Medicine in the RCSI Department of Anatomy. Photo by RCSI.

According to their findings, the copper-doped bioactive glass in the porous scaffold implant attracts blood vessels and bone cells, which accelerates bone repair. At the same time, the copper ions in the implant prevent bacteria growth.

“The ability of a single implant to improve blood flow and enhance bone healing as well as inhibit infection without antibiotic treatment is a significant advancement over most existing treatments,” the experts from the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland said in a press release.

The scientists deemed their research an important first step that serves as the basis for future work that could lead to the complete development of a single-stage, off-the-shelf treatment.

“This in turn could reduce the need for antibiotics and bone grafting—thus also addressing issues with antibiotic resistance,” said Emily Ryan, lead author of the study.

Osteomyelitis is usually developed from broken bones, severe tooth decay and deep puncture wounds, among other causes. In the worst cases, osteomyelitis can result in amputations or be fatal.

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