Artificial bones, a natural success

Synthetic bone with innovative properties for patients needing dental implants or those undergoing surgery for bone tumors: this is the promise of Habib Belaid's work, which has been awarded the Innovation Prize of the University of Montpellier.

Habib Belaid, a post-doctoral researcher in the "DM3" department at theEuropean Membrane Institute, is the winner of the 2021-2022 Innovation Award for the Chemistry Division. The award recognizes his original work in the synthesis and characterization of biomaterials for healthcare applications. Biomaterials? " These are composite materials synthesized from polymers capable of repairing or replacing tissue ," explains the researcher.

These materials are unique in that they can be 3D printed, opening up innovative prospects, particularly in the healthcare field. " This polymer is being developed as a bone substitute ", explains the researcher. Artificial bone that could be used, for example, for orthopedic treatment of cancer.

Bridging the bone gap

When a patient develops a bone tumor, it has to be resected, i.e. the tumor has to be removed, leaving a "void" in the bone. This is where Habib Belaid's work offers a minor revolution. " To fill this bone gap, the surgeon scans the bone to accurately model its morphology. Then, the missing part of the bone can be printed in 3 dimensions to fill the gap".

This synthetic bone not only replaces the original tissue, it also has special properties that can promote healing. " During the synthesis of biomaterials, an active ingredient can be added; the one used in oncology, for example, has an anti-tumor effect that limits the risk of recurrence ".

This intelligent polymer also boosts bone regeneration before resorbing, so that the natural bone thus reconstituted can regain its full place - a small revolution for doctors and patients alike, who will have to wait a little longer before benefiting from it. " The project is in its early stages with CNRS innovation, and we plan to launch the first clinical trials in 5 to 6 years ' time.

Customize every fabric

"My core business is the formulation of 3D-printed biomaterials to personalize each bone tissue," explains the researcher. Habib Belaid also applies his expertise in the formulation of functionalized biomaterials to the field of dentistry. " We have met dental surgeons who have explained to us that sometimes, following the extraction of a tooth, the patient cannot benefit from the implant of a dental prosthesis because of a deficit in the jawbone ".

In the same way as for orthopedics, the dental surgeon scans the patient's jaw to model it, enabling 3D printing of the artificial bone that will support the implants. " Here too, the polymers are functionalized, with anti-bacterial properties that limit the risk of infection following the operation. We also have a patent pending on this formulation ", explains Habib Belaid. To develop this research, the researcher is planning to create the start-up company NEXTMAT 3D. Pre-clinical trials are already underway, and clinical trials on patients should begin in 2-3 years' time.