Healing Broken Bones, No Metal Needed

DAYTON, Ohio Khalid Lafdi measures his success in strides. Two years ago, the avid runner broke his ankle.

"I heard 'pock,'" Lafdi, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace at the University of Dayton in Ohio, told Ivanhoe. "God, that's it. Emotionally, I couldn't accept it, because for me it was the end of the world."

Dr. Lafdi went through two surgeries and had to have a metal plate put in.

"You feel it pinching, especially in the morning," he said.

His pain pushed him to search for a new way to help bones heal -- minus the metal. Dr. Lafdi says the metal is too strong and ultimately weakens the bone.

"This always stays a foreign element in your body," he said.

Dr. Lafdi wants to replace metal with carbon-based repair parts. He's making plates that disappear over time and scaffolding for new bone cells to grow on. Since carbon is found naturally in the body, it means better healing, less pain and fewer surgeries.

"Carbon is an excellent material," Dr. Lafdi said. "Our civilization is moving into a carbon technology civilization."

Researcher Mary Kundrat's injury-filled past also fuels her interest. A slide in a softball game led to eight knee surgeries.

"I have a stainless steel screw in my left foot," Kundrat, a researcher who works alongside Dr. Lafdi at the University of Dayton, told Ivanhoe. "I have three titanium pins in my right knee. I have a screw through my right femur, and I have a screw through my right tibia."

She's using a computer program to find the best places for bone cell growth.

"I've been very interested is seeing what we can do to really help patients' quality of life be better, because from a personal standpoint, it's not fun having foreign materials in your body," Kundrat said.

The team uses their own aches and pains to find new ways to heal bones … paving a new path for healing.

The carbon material Dr. Lafdi is using to repair bones is already used as a heat-resistant component of space shuttles. Testing could begin soon in Europe.

Khalid Lafdi, Ph.D.
(937) 229-4797

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