How does bioactive glass influence immune cells?

Bioactive glass is actually an old friend as it was developed around 50 years ago. Due to its properties that promote bone growth, it has often since been used in regenerative medicine as a material to replace bone or in dentistry. In addition, there has been a surge in interest recently in new applications for the material in soft tissue. In a study led by Prof. Dr. Aldo R. Boccaccini, Chair of Materials Science (Biomaterials) at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, and PD Dr. Elisabeth Zinser from the Department of Immune Modulation at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen (UKE) led by Prof. Dr. Alexander Steinkasserer, the focus was on the effect of bioactive glass on immune cells. The results have now been published in the journal Biomaterials Science of the Royal Society of Chemistry (doi.org/10.1039/C9BM01691K).

For the first time, the interdisciplinary team has demonstrated the effects of bioactive glasses on immune cells in vitro using dendritic cells, which were brought into contact with zinc and copper ions from bioactive borate glass. In addition, the researchers also investigated the antibacterial effect of bioactive glass. ‘In some cases, an immune response is a disadvantage, for example in the case of implants that must not be rejected or in the case of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis or multiple sclerosis’, explains PD Dr. Elisabeth Zinser. ‘Ions from the bioactive glass enable dendritic cells to be influenced in such a way that undesired reactions do not occur, without shutting down the entire immune system.’

‘Bioactive glass can be combined with biopolymers for treating wounds. This produces a flexible and transparent material for dressings for chronic wounds, such as those that can occur in patients with diabetes’, adds Prof. Boccaccini. ‘The released ions can kill off bacteria that prevent healing and cause dangerous infections.’

Further studies are planned to investigate the properties and uses of bioactive glass in more detail, for example in immune therapy for cancer patients.

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