New Bone-healing Compound Reduces Infection Rate and Pain

February 7, 2011

A new compound heals serious bone breaks faster and with less pain than conventional methods.

“Twin-Based Linkers” is the new name for a compound that has been found to heal serious bone breaks, reducing healing time, rate of infection, and pain. This compound is a natural alternative to titanium plates, said lead researchers, Thomas Webster, Associate Professor of Engineering, Brown University. In normal instances, matter that is injected into the human body requires ultraviolet light to become solid, but according to Webster, this material uses hydrogen bonds and needs only bodily fluids. Within time, the material disintegrates as new bone grows in its place. Webster added that this healing process is much shorter, far less risky, and less painful overall than the current practice of inserting metal plates.

Before insertion into the body, this matter is just a white powder. Once injected, however, this bone-healing compound self-assembles into a strong sticky substance with the mechanical properties of bone.

According to Webster, Brown University licensed the compound to the biotechnology company Audax Medical Inc. last summer in the hopes of getting it commercialized and on doctors' shelves. Webster joined forces with Audax Medical through Whitney Sharp '08, MA'09, a former student of Brown who had been involved with the start-up of the company shortly after her graduation from the university’s Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship Engineering. As a final project, Sharp was asked to find something that had not been commercialized yet and build a company around it. She chose the bone-healing material because Brown researchers were very eager concerning the development of such a compound and its possible uses in the medical community.

"It's a tribute to Brown that, in this economy, we're able to license out bone-healing technology," Webster said.

Audax is currently funding Linlin Sun GS to continue the development on the project. Sun's research focuses on whether the material could be toxic and if it could be used in patients with osteoporosis. Brown will receive royalties if the material is commercialized.

According to Sun, Audax and Brown are working closely to gain FDA approval, holding weekly meetings to discuss necessary experiments. Sun also added that they will begin animal testing in the spring, and, if all goes well, will follow it up with human clinical trials.

As exciting as this development in modern medicine is, however, there is one downside: Because the material uses new chemistry, it will require extensive testing, and it may not be available for commercial use for five to ten years.