This year’s Stepping Strong Innovator Awards finalists are addressing complex challenges related to trauma research. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 Stepping Strong Innovator Awards, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Oct. 7. Read about their work below, and vote for your choice.
Omid Farokhzad, MD, Department of Anesthesiology
Our project aims to address the problem of bacterial infections and lack of new bone growth in patients who undergo orthopedic trauma surgery. Injuries from accidents and severe trauma can cause large open bone fractures and, in more extreme cases, large bone defects. Such injuries are frequently prone to poor bone healing and high rates of infection. As a result, orthopedic trauma surgeons are often challenged to both stabilize and repair bone injuries, while also promoting an optimal environment to prevent infection and aid bone healing.
Currently, the standard of care is rudimentary. A cement paste containing antibiotics to kill infecting bacteria is molded into the open fracture and the wound is closed up. At best, only about 25 percent of the antibiotic is released from the cement, and since the cement is not biodegradable, patients require further operations for removal. The cement can also cause bacterial biofilms to grow, leading to more infection.
This project addresses these challenges by developing very small biodegradable robots called nanomedicines that can deliver antibiotics and other drugs to promote bone growth and wound healing in a much more efficient way. These nanorobots can stick to a biodegradable moldable material that is placed in the bone defect, target bacteria and deliver drugs to kill them, and can also deliver drugs that will help the bone heal faster and better.
What is a compelling aspect of your research project?
We are harnessing the power of nanotechnology to treat infections, heal bone fractures, minimize the need for patients to have follow-up surgeries after injury or trauma, and prevent amputations. Our team is highly multidisciplinary in that a nanomedicine scientist and an orthopedic trauma surgeon are working closely together to achieve these goals.
How will your research project benefit future patients who suffer from trauma-related injuries?
In the short term, bacterial infections are minimized or eradicated, and natural bone growth is accelerated. In the long term, the patient may not need follow-up surgery, as the moldable matrix can biodegrade in the body, leaving new bone in its place. We aim to improve the quality of life for trauma patients and to lower health care costs by minimizing the need for further surgeries.
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