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Development of a novel method for the strengthening and toughening of irradiation-sterilized bone allografts

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Reconstruction of large skeletal defects is a significant and challenging issue. Bone allografts are often used for such reconstructions. However, sterilizing bone allografts by using γ-irradiation, damages collagen and causes the bone to become weak, brittle and less fatigue resistant. In a previous study, we successfully protected the mechanical properties of human cortical bone by conducting a pre-treatment with ribose, a natural and biocompatible agent. This study focuses on examining possible mechanisms by which ribose might protect the bone. We examined the mechanical properties, crosslinking, connectivity and free radical scavenging potentials of the ribose treatment. Human cortical bone beams were treated with varying concentration of ribose (0.06–1.2 M) and γ-irradiation before testing them in 3-point bending. The connectivity and amounts of crosslinking were determined with Hydrothermal-Isometric-Tension testing and High-Performance-Liquid-Chromatography, respectively. The free radical content was measured using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance. Ribose pre-treatment improved the mechanical properties of irradiation sterilized human bone in a pre-treatment concentration-dependent manner. The 1.2 M pre-treatment provided >100% of ultimate strength of normal controls and protected 76% of the work-to-fracture (toughness) lost in the irradiated controls. Similarly, the ribose pre-treatment improved the thermo-mechanical properties of irradiation-sterilized human bone collagen in a concentration-dependent manner. Greater free radical content and pentosidine content were modified in the ribose treated bone. This study shows that the mechanical properties of irradiation-sterilized cortical bone allografts can be protected by incubating the bone in a ribose solution prior to irradiation.

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This work was funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and scholarships from the University of Toronto Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and Toronto Musculoskeletal Centre. The authors also acknowledge the contributions made by Mr. Jindra Tupy and Mr. Doug Holmyard. We acknowledge the contributions of our tissue-banking partner, Mount Sinai Allograft Technologies.

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Correspondence to Thomas L. Willett.

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Attia, T., Woodside, M., Minhas, G. et al. Development of a novel method for the strengthening and toughening of irradiation-sterilized bone allografts. Cell Tissue Bank 18, 323–334 (2017).

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