Helping bone to heal: Computational analysis of bone-biomaterial mechanics

Background: Bone displays a unique ability to regenerate itself in response to injury. However, not all fractures heal spontaneously, as the self-healing capacity of bone becomes more difficult with large bone defects. Those defects are common and occur in many clinical situations including high-impact trauma and bone tumour resection. As such, bone is the second most transplanted tissue world-wide, coming right after blood transfusion, with more than 2.2 million bone grafting procedures performed annually. Therefore, biomaterials to treat bone defects are constantly under development aiming at promoting and enhancing bone healing. Yet, biomaterials that degrade too fast don’t allow time for the new bone to grow, while those degrading too slowly can cause mechanical instability to the implantation site. Measuring the biomechanical response of regenerated bone is, therefore, crucial to assess its mechanical performance and overall structural response. This ultimately serves to validate different treatments applied to restore bone within the defect site.

Project: The project aims at using imaging-based computational models that allow it to investigate the biomechanical response of bone-biomaterial constructs. Key tasks of the project are:

  1. extending existing computational models (micro-finite element models) based on ex vivo high-resolution µCT data of bone and biomaterials to a broad class of biomaterials, taking into account the local bone tissue mineralisation,
  2. investigating the local and global mechanical behaviour due to quasi-physiologic loading, and,
  3. predicting the overall mechanical performance of the regenerated bone tissue.
  4. If time allows or if there is specific interest: Implement bone remodelling algorithms to investigate remodelling of the biomaterials.

Impact: The NHS cost for treatment of bone fractures is predicted to reach £6bn by 2036. The development of innovative biomaterials can address currently unmet clinical needs, but a greater understanding of the bone-biomaterial integration and related mechanical performance is crucial for improving the outcome of novel treatments. This project represents a unique opportunity to predict the ability of such biomaterials in supporting bone formation to prevent further damage and support weight-bearing regions.

Supervisor name: 
Uwe Wolfram
Supervisor and Deputy email addresses: 
u.wolfram@hw.ac.uk, M.Pena_Fernandez@hw.ac.uk
Deputy name: 
Marta Peña Fernández