What is the similarity between a coffee cup and a piece of bone? At first sight nothing at all, but that is not entirely true. Our bones are made for about 60 percent out of the same material as a coffee cup, namely ceramic. But why does a cup break when we drop it, and don’t our bones break into a thousand pieces when we fall off our bikes?

Bones have their unique strength because, in addition to ceramics, in this case calcium phosphate, they also consist of collagen, a natural polymer. And these two materials are intertwined in a very special way. It is really difficult to mimic this intertwining in a laboratory. And that is necessary if we want to make pieces of bone for the treatment of major bone damage as a result of an accident or removal of a tumor. That is why we are looking for other methods of repairing major bone damage. My research focuses on creating ceramic granules that, like bone, consist of calcium phosphate. These granules are simple and cheap. They do not mimic the bone tissue perfectly, but they can trigger the body to produce bone itself with the complex mix of collagen and calcium phosphate, after which the granules dissolve. For example, we can now treat millions of patients with bone damage efficiently and cheaply.

Maastricht University

Bones provide strength to our body, but the exact chemical composition of bones is difficult to imitate. Still, there are smart solutions to repair major bone damage. And that is what Pamela Habibovic is researching: simple granules that can help patients.

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