Swiss medical researchers say they have achieved encouraging results with a pioneering synthetic material that could replace missing or damaged bones and allow the original bone tissue to grow back in its place.

The team from Lausanne’s University Hospital and the Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) said the porous but solid material developed over the past three years could be used for patients who have had bone tumours removed or suffered accidents or deformities.

Laboratory tests using fragments of human bone had shown that bone cells colonised the material over three to four weeks and started multiplying, the team said in a statement.

“The results are very encouraging,” said Dominique Pioletti, an orthopaedic specialist at EPFL.

Mr Pioletti said detailed findings have been submitted for peer-review by medical journals and presented as abstracts at scientific conferences.

While helping to regenerate bone cells, the polymer-ceramic mixture should also be strong enough to replace the missing portion of bone and fulfil its structural role in the human body, according to the Swiss researchers.

They also hope that the material could provide an alternative to painful and uncertain bone tissue transplants.

“To obtain the optimum material, we had to try many combinations of a polymer and ceramics,” said composite materials specialist Pierre Etienne Bourban.

Mr Bourban said the joint effort by composite materials specialists and medical researchers had created a material that combined structural and biological properties.

He said the porous inner section contained pores which were “open and communicate between themselves, thereby helping cells to proliferate and colonise the synthetic bone.”

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