Researchers from the BIOCAPS Area of 'Biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine' have managed to obtain bioceramics from shark teeth, which have already tested applications in the regeneration of bone tissue, particularly in the fields of traumatology and odontology. Given the degree of innovation and the positive results obtained after preliminary trials, the European patent is currently been applied for to protect this finding.
These new implants, which according to the Spanish scientists could be on the market very shortly, will broaden the range of materials for biomedical use, as well as being an innovative solution utilizing marine resources.
This breakthrough has been achieved within the framework of the recently finished European project MARMED, which has made it possible for groups from ten research institutions to work, in a coordinated manner, for three years to create new ways of evaluating marine discards and by-products for designing and obtaining the next generation of biopolymers and bioceramics.
"The treatment of marine resources is not being undertaken in a sustainable way, which leads to the discarding of by-products with a high potential for recoverability," explained Julia Serra, researcher in the New Materials group of the University of Vigo and BIOCAPS member. "The MARMED project has made it possible for us to carry out actual case studies in collaboration with industry, to develop biomedical materials with a high added value, using marine by-products from companies in the sector," she added.
Researchers from the Instituto de Investigación Biomédica (IBI) [Institute of Biomedical Research] responsible for this finding obtained apatite bioceramics from the discarded teeth of blue and shortfin mako sharks.
Calcium phosphate materials and, in particular, hydroxyapatites are those most in demand in tissue engineering for the repair, replacement or regeneration of bone defects in both orthopaedic and maxillofacial surgery. Currently, the most extensive source of biological apatites is bovine bone, but recently this has become controversial because of the confirmation of the risk of transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy -commonly known as mad cow disease -- by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This makes the alternative developed by the BIOCAPS researchers especially valuable, because it avoids these risks by advocating sources of marine origin for obtaining these biomaterials.
The process for obtaining bioceramics from shark teeth starts with washing and drying, followed by milling and finally by pyrolyzation (a high-temperature treatment to eliminate any organic waste). The result is an inorganic granular powder sifted in different sizes according to the application required, and that has been tested by in vitro and in vivo assays. These trials, carried out in collaboration with researchers from the BIOCAPS area of 'Endocrinology, metabolism and nutrition', have recorded very good results and have demonstrated an absence of toxicity.
Collaboration with the fisheries industry
IBI researchers have developed the project in close collaboration with the fisheries industry. For obtaining shark teeth, a material transfer agreement was signed with the Copemar Company, which, among other activities, fishes for swordfish in the Indian Ocean. As in this type of fishing the capture of different shark species is common, the agreement is an interesting way of obtaining materials that otherwise would be discarded by the industry.
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