Tiny ceramic ‘needles’ could be a new way to deal with back pain. The granules, smaller than a human hair, are implanted in the back instead of using bone grafts to weld bones together to reduce pain and improve function.
Over a few weeks, new bone grows around the needle-shaped grains, fusing the vertebrae. After successful animal studies, about 100 patients are now trying this treatment.
Traditional spinal fusion surgery relies on bone grafts to connect the vertebrae, stopping them from rubbing against each other and causing pain.
It is used to treat a range of conditions that affect millions of people, including disc disease and spinal stenosis, where the space in the spine narrows and puts pressure on nerves.
The granules, smaller than a human hair, are implanted in the back instead of using bone grafts to weld bones together to reduce pain and improve function
After age 40, most people have some disc degeneration due to wear and tear. Although painkillers are the first treatment, approximately 50,000 patients in the UK require spinal surgery, including fusion surgery, each year.
While this can be effective, there is inevitably some loss of mobility when the joint is fused. There is also a risk of adjacent segment disease – the lack of movement between the fused vertebrae can put undue pressure on the areas above and below, which can cause pain and weakness.
And the relief surgery that is provided does not always last long; about 25 percent of people who have fusion surgery need surgery again within 20 years.
In addition, a bone graft is needed, in which bone is removed from a patient’s hips or legs. This can cause pain for months. In contrast, the MagnetOs beads, made of a ceramic material called biphasic calcium phosphate, do not require a bone graft.
Surgeons form the material between the bones of the joint that is being fused. Small needles on the surface help it stick. Because the material is similar in structure to bone, it attracts new bone cells to grow around it. Over time, this fuses the damaged bones together.
Over a few weeks, new bone grows around the needle-shaped grains, fusing the vertebrae. After successful animal studies, about 100 patients are now testing this treatment
Animal research has shown that this approach can be very effective. A study, reported last year in the journal European Cells & Materials, found it contributed to faster healing, with new bone forming in three weeks rather than the six months it can take with a bone graft. A second study showed that the granules led to a successful fusion rate of 92 percent after 12 weeks.
In the new clinical trial underway at University Medical Center Utrecht and four other hospitals in the Netherlands, surgeons will use two teaspoons of granules in each joint. In each patient, two joints will be treated, one with the MagnetOs beads and the other with conventional bone grafts, and the results will be compared.
Mike McNicholas, orthopedic surgeon at Liverpool University Hospitals, says: ‘The rate of bone formation may be related to the shape of the granules. The results will be fascinating.’
Sugar-coated medical devices, such as urinary catheters, can protect patients from infection. Researchers from NUI Galway and Queen’s University Belfast are studying the interaction of sugar molecules with bacterial proteins to create fluorescent materials that darken when they come into contact with bacteria. By coating medical devices with this, doctors can identify potential infections early and treat them more quickly.
Cord blood can help heal diabetic foot ulcers
Blood from donated umbilical cords is used to treat difficult-to-heal foot ulcers in patients with diabetes.
The blood is spun and concentrated to increase the amount of platelets, which help the blood to clot, and growth factors, which help wounds to heal.
About 60 patients participating in a clinical trial at Attikon University Hospital, in Greece, will apply a gel of the processed blood to a diabetic foot ulcer every three days for a month.
Another 60 will receive conventional wound dressings. Doctors will then compare the rate at which the ulcers get smaller.
Cranberries. A recent study in the journal Food & Function showed that a daily dose of 9 g of cranberry powder (equivalent to 100 g of the fresh fruit) significantly improved ‘flow-mediated dilation’ – heart and blood vessel function – compared to a placebo. Cranberries help lower levels of homocysteine, which is known to damage the lining of blood vessels.
A recent study in the journal Food & Function showed that a daily dose of 9g of cranberry powder (equivalent to 100g of the fresh fruit) significantly improved ‘flow-mediated dilation’ – heart and blood vessel function – compared to a placebo
Did you know?
Drinking seven or more units of alcohol per week can lead to cognitive decline, say Oxford University researchers. MRI scans have shown that drinking this amount is associated with higher levels of iron in the brain region responsible for motor control, eye movements, emotion and memory. Higher iron levels in some parts of the brain have been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Beauty is pain
When beauty routines cause pain. This week: Mascara
A report in the journal Ophthalmology in 2018 described the case of a patient with blurred vision and a sense of something in her eye. It turned out to be a buildup of mascara that eroded her eyelid.
‘The mascara had made its way into the openings of the meibomian glands’ [the tiny oil glands at the edge of the eyelids] and caused permanent scarring,” her ophthalmologist Dr Dana Robaie, who lives in Sydney, Australia, told Good Health.
The deposits also solidified into granules and began to erode through the inner aspects of her eyelids, causing the sensation of a foreign body.
“It happened because the woman hadn’t removed her eye makeup. I advise anyone who wears mascara or eyeliner to remove it properly every night.’
Pot belly but slim? It’s still bad for your heart
Having a pot belly increases your risk of heart failure and atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause a stroke), even if you’re a healthy weight, a study shows.
Researchers from the University of Tokyo, in Japan, studied nearly 1.7 million patients and found that wearing a “spare tire” increased the incidence of heart failure by nearly 10 percent and atrial fibrillation by 20 percent, reports European Heart Journal Open.
One theory is that a pot belly indicates that excess fat is being stored around the liver, which is a risk factor for heart problems.
In pill position
How your position can affect medication. This Week: Get Up to Take a Nasty-Tasting Drug
Standing clouds taste, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research that asked people to rate the taste of food and drinks while sitting or standing.
“A standing position is more physically taxing than a sitting one, and this affects the perceived taste of what you eat,” said the lead author, Dipayan Biswas, a professor of marketing at the University of South Florida.
This is because when we stand, our heart has to beat faster to keep blood flowing throughout the body. The rise in heart rate then activates the nervous system and leads to a rise in the hormone cortisol – and cortisol dampens taste.
‘It may then be helpful to maintain a standing posture when consuming pharmaceutical products with an unpleasant taste,’ says Professor Biswas.
Standing dulls the taste, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. A file photo is used above