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A heaped spoon of sand and an empty cracked egg on a table

Could crushed eggshells help to repair bone damage?

July 15th, 2019

A new study from the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell has shown that crushed eggshells could provide a new future for fixing damage to bones.

Calcium carbonate, which is essential to bone growth, makes up the entirety of an eggshell. When crushed and imbibed, this calcium can be used as a natural supplement for bone health.

What is Calcium & what does it do?

Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life. As well as building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones & teeth.

Every day we are losing calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat etc. Our bodies do not produce its own calcium, that is why its important to get enough calcium through the foods that we eat. When we don’t get enough calcium that the body needs, it is taken from our bones. Too often, bones get weak & easier to break. (Source: National Osteoporosis Foundation.)

The Study

Researchers led by Assistant Professor Gulden Camci-Unal have been researching how finely crushed eggshells can be used as part of a biomaterial to help damaged bones regenerate – an innovative process that will help scientists to grow new bone tissue.

Laboratory and in-vivo experiments on rats have been undertaken to date, but researchers believe that human treatment with this biomaterial could be the next step for treating bone damage.

Innovative Process (tested in rats)

Finely crushed eggshells (from chickens) are added to a hydrogel mixture, which then works to form a frame in which new bone can be formed from bone cells.

The bone cells use the calcium in the eggshells to both develop new tissue and to harden faster – this could also help to speed up healing from a bone graft whereby specialists transplant new bone tissue to an area of damaged bone to help it to heal.

Researchers have to date tested this process on rats, but feel it could be safely applied to humans. If this were to go ahead, bone tissue would need to be collected from individuals who require a transplant to ensure a match with no rejection.

Camci-Unal explained that the research team have now begun the next steps to bringing their findings to humans, she stated, “This is the first study that uses eggshell particles in a hydrogel matrix for bone repair”.

She went on to say that using eggshells for use in transplants would also work towards a more sustainable future, as this would cut down on food waste. “Global waste of discarded eggshells typically amounts to millions of tons annually from household and commercial cooking. Innovative repurposing of eggshells can directly impact the economy and environment, while providing enhanced solutions to unmet clinical needs.”

Further Reading:
1.) Eggshell particle-reinforces hydrogels for bone tissue engineering: an orthogonal approach. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2019/bm/c9bm00230h#!divAbstract

2.) Calcium & Vitamin D. National Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/

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