CMU Partners With U.S. Military Academy To Tackle Amputation Complications

Sep 10, 2012

A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University is developing new techniques to prevent heterotopic ossification in soft tissue, a potential side-effect from orthopedic surgeries and amputations.

Heterotopic ossification, or H-O, is a condition where bone tissue grows outside of the skeleton. Dr. Jeffrey Hollinger, head of CMU’s Bone Tissue Engineering Center, says this unusual side-effect is a common occurrence in service members who lose a limb.

“That response is the formation of bone in places that you don’t ordinarily anticipate bone forming which is in muscle around the bone stump,” Hollinger said.

Hollinger also said H-O creates more than a little discomfort.

“The significance of that H-O is that the service member finds it almost impossible to put on a leg prosthesis,” Hollinger said. “It’s analogous to having pebbles in your shoe when you walk.”

The solution involves nanostructural polymer-based treatments, which are lab-created materials designed inhibit bone growth on a cellular level.

While this medical technology is being designed for military use, Hollinger sees this research going beyond the armed services.

“On the occurrence of H-O in the civilian population, we found that a remarkable number of individuals who undergo orthopedic surgery procedures for hip replacement and for knee replacement are now being identified as developing H-O,” Hollinger said.

CMU is conducting this research through a three-year, $2.93 million dollar grant from the Department of Defense to work with researchers at West Point, the University of Michigan, and the Naval Medical Center to produce a therapeutic rather than surgical solution to H-O.

The next step of research will be human trials.