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Bone research could yield stronger synthetic materials

"That’s totally not what we expected from an engineering standpoint," said researcher Ashley Torres.
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 29, 2016 at 5:13 PM

ITHACA, N.Y., Feb. 29 (UPI) -- Researchers at Cornell University have discovered a unique property of cancellous bone -- the bone near joints and found in the vertebrae. It maintains its strength as it breaks, heals and regains its structure.

The strength of most man-made materials is significantly compromised by a fracture, but not cancellous bone.

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"Cancellous bone does the opposite, it has softer surfaces with a more brittle interior," researcher Christopher Hernandez explained in a news release.

According to recent analysis of the spongy bone material, cracks in cancellous bone are redirected to the least vulnerable and structurally integral areas. This allows the bone to quickly regain its structure.

"That's totally not what we expected from an engineering standpoint," said Ashley Torres, a graduate student in biomedical engineering at Cornell. "But it allows the material able to continue to function after failure."

Torres is the co-lead author of a new paper on the novel research into cancellous bone and its healing properties -- published this week in the journal PNAS.

Previously, researchers thought foam-like bone served simply to absorb shock. The latest research suggests it is also vital to the healing process. The revelation may be incorporated into manufacturing. The findings may also have relevance for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.

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