A team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Lowell has developed a technique to enhance the growth of new bones using eggshells. In a statement to UMass Lowell reporters, lead researcher and Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering Gulden Camci-Unal stated that “This is the first study that uses eggshell particles in a hydrogel matrix for bone repair…We are very excited about our results, and we anticipate a lot of useful applications of our invention.” She is hopeful that this technique could repair bone injuries due to aging, accidents, diseases such as cancer, or military combat. She also stated that this process might also be used to grow cartilage, teeth, and tendons.
The teams’ research showed that eggshell particles—which are made primarily of calcium carbonate—can increase bone cells’ ability to grow and harden, potentially resulting in faster healing. To prepare the reinforced material for bone grafts, powdered eggshell particles are inserted into a gelatin-based hydrogel mixture, which forms a three-dimensional frame on which the bone cells can grow. Bone cells from the patient are introduced into the substance and cultivated in an incubator. Using bone cells from the patient reduces the possibility of the immune system rejecting the new bone material.
In addition to providing a novel and potentially more successful technique for bone grafting and repair, this procedure is also sustainable and reduces worldwide eggshell waste. Camci-Unal told UMass Lowell reporters that, “Global waste of discarded eggshells typically amounts to millions of tons annually from household and commercial cooking. By repurposing eggshells, we can directly benefit the economy and the environment while providing a sustainable solution to unmet clinical needs.”
Camci-Unal is hopeful that this technique will be useful in a variety of biomedical applications. As she told UMass Lowell reporters, “Our eggshell particle-reinforced scaffolds can potentially be used in dental implants, as well as reconstructive surgeries of the skull, jaw, and face.” Beyond tissue regeneration, she believes that “eggshell particles can also be used as a possible vehicle for delivering small molecules such as growth factors, proteins, peptides, genes, and therapeutic drugs.”
The results of the research team’s findings were published in Biomaterials Science and will also be featured on the cover of the print edition of the publication this month.