Westmount science whiz seeks a better mix to fix our bones

News Apr 02, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Samna Aziz is trying to find a better way to mend broken bones – not your typical teen pursuit, but perhaps less a surprise when you find out both her parents are doctors.

The Grade 11 Westmount Secondary School student says she’s more drawn to the biomedical engineering side of medicine because she can’t stomach the sight of blood.

In this case, she sought to overcome the shortcomings of the current approach to bone repair, which is to inject a clear, acrylic-based cement.

More commonly known as Plexiglas, the cement needs to be heated to up to 80 degrees Celsius, making it painful for patients, and also becomes much harder than the natural, spongy inside of the bone once it cools off.

Samna says that hardness makes it good for load-bearing areas like the hip. On the flipside, it can cause adjacent stress fractures because it lacks the give-and-take of real bone.

It’s also not biodegradable and particles can be released into the bloodstream, causing other health problems, she says.

To test her theory that better alternatives exist, Samna mixed two ceramic solutions using different concentrations of calcium phosphate.

After letting them set for 72 hours, she then viewed them under a high-powered microscope to compare them with their acrylic counterpart.

She found the ceramic cements not only looked much more like the bone’s spongy interior structure, but also performed much closer to the real thing when samples were slowly compressed by a machine until they fractured.

“This is fantastic if you want to apply it into a real life situation,” says Samna, who presented her findings at the annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair, held at Mohawk College on the weekend.

She says ceramic cement’s benefits include that it won’t release toxins into the bloodstream and  its formula can potentially be adjusted to provide more strength where needed or to prolong a quicker setting time.

“Those are just little tweaks that we could put in the cement, but other than that they’re relatively ready for clinical trial,” Samna says. “It’s very similar to what your real bone is made of.”

The research is important, she adds, because one in 10 Canadians over 40 is affected by osteoporosis – a disease causing bones to become weak and brittle – and susceptible to fractures.

“The numbers are huge and we need a new material that’s going to help,” she says. “We don’t want them to use the (acrylic) cement if they ever have to.”

Westmount science whiz seeks a better mix to fix our bones

News Apr 02, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Samna Aziz is trying to find a better way to mend broken bones – not your typical teen pursuit, but perhaps less a surprise when you find out both her parents are doctors.

The Grade 11 Westmount Secondary School student says she’s more drawn to the biomedical engineering side of medicine because she can’t stomach the sight of blood.

In this case, she sought to overcome the shortcomings of the current approach to bone repair, which is to inject a clear, acrylic-based cement.

More commonly known as Plexiglas, the cement needs to be heated to up to 80 degrees Celsius, making it painful for patients, and also becomes much harder than the natural, spongy inside of the bone once it cools off.

Samna says that hardness makes it good for load-bearing areas like the hip. On the flipside, it can cause adjacent stress fractures because it lacks the give-and-take of real bone.

It’s also not biodegradable and particles can be released into the bloodstream, causing other health problems, she says.

To test her theory that better alternatives exist, Samna mixed two ceramic solutions using different concentrations of calcium phosphate.

After letting them set for 72 hours, she then viewed them under a high-powered microscope to compare them with their acrylic counterpart.

She found the ceramic cements not only looked much more like the bone’s spongy interior structure, but also performed much closer to the real thing when samples were slowly compressed by a machine until they fractured.

“This is fantastic if you want to apply it into a real life situation,” says Samna, who presented her findings at the annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair, held at Mohawk College on the weekend.

She says ceramic cement’s benefits include that it won’t release toxins into the bloodstream and  its formula can potentially be adjusted to provide more strength where needed or to prolong a quicker setting time.

“Those are just little tweaks that we could put in the cement, but other than that they’re relatively ready for clinical trial,” Samna says. “It’s very similar to what your real bone is made of.”

The research is important, she adds, because one in 10 Canadians over 40 is affected by osteoporosis – a disease causing bones to become weak and brittle – and susceptible to fractures.

“The numbers are huge and we need a new material that’s going to help,” she says. “We don’t want them to use the (acrylic) cement if they ever have to.”

Westmount science whiz seeks a better mix to fix our bones

News Apr 02, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Samna Aziz is trying to find a better way to mend broken bones – not your typical teen pursuit, but perhaps less a surprise when you find out both her parents are doctors.

The Grade 11 Westmount Secondary School student says she’s more drawn to the biomedical engineering side of medicine because she can’t stomach the sight of blood.

In this case, she sought to overcome the shortcomings of the current approach to bone repair, which is to inject a clear, acrylic-based cement.

More commonly known as Plexiglas, the cement needs to be heated to up to 80 degrees Celsius, making it painful for patients, and also becomes much harder than the natural, spongy inside of the bone once it cools off.

Samna says that hardness makes it good for load-bearing areas like the hip. On the flipside, it can cause adjacent stress fractures because it lacks the give-and-take of real bone.

It’s also not biodegradable and particles can be released into the bloodstream, causing other health problems, she says.

To test her theory that better alternatives exist, Samna mixed two ceramic solutions using different concentrations of calcium phosphate.

After letting them set for 72 hours, she then viewed them under a high-powered microscope to compare them with their acrylic counterpart.

She found the ceramic cements not only looked much more like the bone’s spongy interior structure, but also performed much closer to the real thing when samples were slowly compressed by a machine until they fractured.

“This is fantastic if you want to apply it into a real life situation,” says Samna, who presented her findings at the annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair, held at Mohawk College on the weekend.

She says ceramic cement’s benefits include that it won’t release toxins into the bloodstream and  its formula can potentially be adjusted to provide more strength where needed or to prolong a quicker setting time.

“Those are just little tweaks that we could put in the cement, but other than that they’re relatively ready for clinical trial,” Samna says. “It’s very similar to what your real bone is made of.”

The research is important, she adds, because one in 10 Canadians over 40 is affected by osteoporosis – a disease causing bones to become weak and brittle – and susceptible to fractures.

“The numbers are huge and we need a new material that’s going to help,” she says. “We don’t want them to use the (acrylic) cement if they ever have to.”