Future medicine: how bio-glass will revolutionize surgery


At first glance, glass is not a very suitable replacement for a broken bone, but British surgeons found that the so-called bioglass is not only stronger than a human bone, but it can also bend, spring and even fight infection. What does this mean for medicine?This was in 2002. Ian Thompson, a specialist in facial bone reconstruction at King’s College London, called the desperate patient. A few years ago, he experienced an accident when someone’s car lost control and drove to the sidewalk, causing the current Thompson patient to fly over the hood and smash his face – while breaking one fragile bone that holds the eye of a man in the eye socket.

“Without this thin – no more than 1 mm in thickness – the bones your eye goes deep into the skull, as if it wants to hide there,” Thompson explains. “But as a result, vision gets worse – the focus and the ability to correctly recognize colors are lost.”The patient, who was about 30, worked in aviation, including helping to change wiring in aircraft, and after the injury, he could no longer understand where the blue postings, and where the red.

For three years, surgeons tried to help him restore the normal position of the eyeball – first they used artificial implants instead of a broken bone, then they constructed a replacement from their own rib of the victim. But both attempts were unsuccessful – in each case a few months later, the body developed an infection, which was accompanied by severe pain. Doctors ran out of ideas.

Thompson, having understood the situation, proposed to build the world’s first implant of glass, which would keep the eye of the patient in the orbit in a normal position.

The idea of ​​using glass for this, the material fragile and brittle, at first looks counterproductive.But it was an unusual glass.”If you put a piece of ordinary glass in the human body, it will quickly build up a scar tissue and after some time will be replaced,” said Julian Jones, a bioactive glass expert from Imperial College London. “And when you put biocrystals in the body, it starts to dissolve, singling out ions that” talk “to the immune system and tell the cells what to do.Thus, the body does not perceive the bioglass as something alien, and it fuses with bones and soft tissues, Stimulating the formation of bone material. ”

Thompson, meanwhile, continued to work with bio-glass as an implant and provided effective assistance to more than 100 patients injured in car and motorcycle accidents.

“In fact, bio-glass works even better than the patient’s own bone material,” he says. “As we discovered, this is due to the fact that, as it dissolves, it gradually releases sodium ions, destroying the bacteria, Quite by accident – it turned out that the bioglass has a moderate effect of the antibiotic. ”

Coming Revolution?

Bioglass in 1969 invented the American scientist Larry Hench. Once on a bus, he talked with a colonel who had recently returned from the Vietnam War. The colonel told Henchu ​​that although modern medical technologies help save lives on the battlefield, they can not save the limbs of the wounded.

That conversation made such a strong impression on the scientist that he decided to give up work in the field of intercontinental ballistic missiles and try to create biomaterials that would not be rejected by the human body.