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Revolutionary biomaterial can regenerate bone and teeth, study finds

Researchers have engineered a revolutionary biomaterial with the potential to significantly expedite creation of specialized cells responsible for bone formation. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

In a groundbreaking development, scientists at São Paulo State University's Botucatu Institute of Biosciences (IBB-UNESP) in Brazil have engineered a revolutionary biomaterial with the potential to significantly expedite the differentiation of osteoblasts, the specialized cells responsible for bone formation.

This innovative material, cobalt-doped monetite, offers promising prospects in the realms of bone regeneration, bone grafting, dental implant recovery, and various other orthopedic procedures.


Published in the esteemed Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, the researchers detailed their findings, highlighting the remarkable properties of cobalt-doped monetite. This material, a variant of monetite, is a calcium phosphate compound that closely mimics the structure of human bone mineral, making it an ideal candidate for biomedical applications.

Monetite, a compound comprising calcium, hydrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus, has long been recognized for its versatility in the field of medicine. It has been utilized for various purposes, including as coatings for prostheses and in injectable bone cement. However, the introduction of cobalt into monetite marks a significant advancement in its potential applications.


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The key breakthrough lies in the role of cobalt in osteoblast differentiation, a process critical to bone formation. Professor Willian Fernando Zambuzzi, a biochemist at IBB-UNESP and the senior author of the article, elaborated on their discovery, stating, "For the first time, our data produced sufficient evidence based on hypoxia [low levels of oxygen in tissue] that we may have a novel biomimetic material with the potential to regenerate bone tissue."

Zambuzzi emphasized the limitations of relying solely on autogenous bone, which may not always be available in sufficient quantity and quality for clinical grafting.


Currently, common grafting procedures necessitate the use of bone fragments harvested from the patients themselves, leading to additional surgery, infection risks, and extended recovery times. The development of cobalt-doped monetite offers a promising alternative that could revolutionize orthopedic and dental procedures, reducing patient discomfort and improving outcomes.

Photomicrograph of the material synthesized by researchers at IBB-UNESP. (CREDIT: Willian Fernando Zambuzzi/UNESP)

Professor Zambuzzi has been at the forefront of bone biology research since the early 2000s, with support from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). He currently serves as the thesis advisor for Gerson Santos de Almeida, the lead author of the article.


Zambuzzi's research group has a longstanding focus on unraveling the intricate molecular mechanisms involved in bone development while actively seeking compatible biomaterials to enhance clinical outcomes.

We see this as a 'breakthrough'," stated Dr. David Sinclair, a molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of the study. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

The global increase in life expectancy has spurred intensified research into bone regeneration and related therapies. The ultimate goal is to facilitate quicker patient recovery, shorten hospital stays, reduce treatment costs, and mitigate potential adverse side effects. To achieve these objectives, the development of biomaterials that can faithfully replicate the complexity of natural bone structure while ensuring safety and efficacy is paramount.


The foundation for this groundbreaking research can be traced back to a 2014 article published in Nature, which reported that endothelial cells, responsible for lining blood vessels, could stimulate osteoblast differentiation. This finding suggested a close interplay between blood vessel growth and bone formation, with molecular crosstalk between endothelial and osteoblastic cells.

Development of cobalt (Co)‐doped monetites for bone regeneration. (CREDIT: Biomedical Materials Research)

Inspired by these discoveries, Professor Zambuzzi established the Laboratory for Bioassays and Cell Dynamics, with initial support from FAPESP's Young Investigator Grant. His quest for molecules capable of promoting blood vessel growth, which indirectly influences osteoblast differentiation, led him to focus on cobalt chloride. This compound was known to induce hypoxia, a condition that triggers the organism to increase blood vessel formation in response to oxygen deprivation.


Zambuzzi explained the rationale behind their approach, stating, "Hypoxia occurs naturally in tissue. Having explored its development and the links between endothelial cells and osteoblasts, we investigated biomimetic aspects and decided on artificial provocation of a novel molecule, cobalt-doped monetite, to stimulate bone production as a complementary effect to intensifying angiogenesis [the creation of new blood vessels]."

Visual plot of Rietveld refinements. (CREDIT: Biomedical Materials Research)

Critical to the success of any biomaterial in medical applications is its cytotoxicity, ensuring that it is safe for use within the human body. Cobalt-doped monetite underwent rigorous testing based on the primary biological evaluation standard for medical devices, ISO 10993:5. These tests confirmed the material's safety, providing a crucial green light for further exploration.


Of particular interest was the determination of the optimal cobalt concentration for biomedical applications, especially in the context of bone regeneration. The researchers conducted comprehensive basic research, which yielded conclusive results. Professor Zambuzzi explained their next steps, stating, "The basic research results were conclusive, giving us the go-ahead for a more complex analysis via preclinical models, including animal tests, to glean a better understanding of the translational aspects of the material."

Of particular interest was the determination of the optimal cobalt concentration for biomedical applications, especially in the context of bone regeneration. (CREDIT: Biomedical Materials Research)

The researchers at IBB-UNESP hold a strong commitment to ethical principles in animal testing, adhering to the three Rs: reducing the number of animals used in tests, replacing animals whenever feasible, and refining testing methods to minimize animal discomfort. While they are dedicated to minimizing the use of vertebrate models wherever possible, they acknowledge the necessity of such models at certain stages of product development.


Professor Zambuzzi emphasized their dedication to producing biomimetic materials that enhance the quality of human life while upholding the strictest ethical standards in animal testing. "We're on the way to producing novel biomimetic materials that improve the quality of people's lives while complying with the strictest ethical principles in animal testing," he affirmed.

The potential applications of cobalt-doped monetite are extensive, with the material poised to revolutionize orthopedic and dental procedures. (CREDIT: Biomedical Materials Research)

The potential applications of cobalt-doped monetite are extensive, with the material poised to revolutionize orthopedic and dental procedures. Its ability to accelerate osteoblast differentiation while promoting angiogenesis opens up exciting avenues for bone regeneration, grafting, and implant recovery.


As researchers continue to delve deeper into the material's properties and its compatibility with the human body, the future of bone-related medical interventions appears brighter than ever. Patients may soon benefit from quicker recoveries, reduced risks, and enhanced outcomes, thanks to this remarkable biomaterial developed in the heart of Brazil.

For more science news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


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