A medical startup has begun developing orthopaedic surgical screws made from bone, which could improve recovery time and reduce complications.
Since the nineteenth century, orthopaedic surgeons have been using metal implants to immobilize fractured bone segments or hold implants in place. However, the titanium or steel screws can cause later problems, including infection, and sometimes need to be removed, resulting in another operation. Now, biomechanical engineers from Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) have teamed up with medical startup Surgebright to develop surgical screws made from human bone. The screws, dubbed ‘Shark Screws’ were originally developed in 2013 by orthopaedist Klaus Pastl, but this is the first time they have been developed and produced for multiple applications.
The screws are made from donated bone which is typed to match each patient. Because the patients’ body recognizes the screws as bone, the risk of infection is decreased and the screws never need to be removed. During the healing process, the screws fuse with the patient’s bone, becoming indistinguishable in an x-ray just one year after surgery.
Surgebright, which was founded in 2016 in cooperation with the German Institute for Tissue and Cell Replacement, will work closely with the Institute of Biomechanics at TU Graz to develop new prototypes of bone screws for use in different types of surgery. Explains TU Graz researcher Gerhard Sommer, “In maxillary surgery, extremely small screws are necessary … which have to withstand great stresses … In foot surgery, although the screws are bigger … they are also exposed to large forces, for instance bending forces in surgical corrections on the tarsus.” The Shark Screw joins many new types of surgical technology coming on line, such as an expanding tissue scaffold and a smart needle for use in brain surgery. What role might the Shark Screw play in pointing the way to new types of medical technology?