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Soy is widely studied for its estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects on the body. It has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer and recurrence, improved heart and bone health, as well as the reduced risk of other cancers. Now researchers at Washington State University (WSU) see the potential of soy when it comes to improving post-operative treatment of bone cancer. They demonstrated the slow release of soy-based chemical compounds from a 3D-printed bone-like scaffold resulted in a reduction in bone cancer cells while building up healthy cells and reducing harmful inflammation.

Their findings, “Controlled release of soy isoflavones from multifunctional 3D printed bone tissue engineering scaffolds,” are published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia and led by graduate student Naboneeta Sarkar and Susmita Bose, PhD, professor at WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

“There is not much research in this area of natural medicinal compounds in biomedical devices,” explained Bose. “Using these natural medicines, one can make a difference to human health with very minimal or no side effects, although a critical issue remains composition control.”

Bone cancer is rare, making up less than 1% of all cancers. Some types of bone cancer occur primarily in children. Surgical removal is the most common treatment, but chemotherapy and radiation therapy also may be utilized. Unfortunately, there are risks and side effects with each of the treatments for bone cancer. The main risks associated with surgery include infection, recurrence of the cancer, and injury to the surrounding tissues. In order to remove the entire cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence, some surrounding normal tissue must also be removed. Depending on the location of the cancer, this may require the removal of portions of bone, muscle, nerves, or blood vessels.

The researchers have been studying bone tissue engineering as an alternative strategy to repair the bone using materials, science principles, and advanced manufacturing techniques to develop effective biomedical devices.

“Recent challenges in post-surgical bone tumor management have elucidated the need for a multifunctional scaffold, which can be used for residual tumor-cell suppression, defect repair, and simultaneous bone regeneration. In this perspective, 3D printing allows to create a wide variety of patient-specific implant with complex porous architecture and compatible mechanical strength to that of cancellous bone,” noted the researchers.

Soybeans contain isoflavones, plant-derived estrogens, that have been shown to impede cancer cell growth for many types of cancer without being toxic to normal cells. Other potential health benefits of isoflavones include protection against age-related diseases including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, hormone-dependent cancer, and loss of cognitive function.

The researchers used 3D printing to make patient-specific, bone-like scaffolds that included three primary soy isoflavones: genistein, daidzein, and glycitein, and then slowly released the compounds into samples containing bone cancer as well as healthy bone cells.

“Presence of genistein, a well-known natural biomolecule shows a 90% reduction in vitro osteosarcoma cell viability and proliferation after 11 days,” noted the researchers. The two other soy compounds significantly improved the growth of healthy bone cells. Using the soy compounds in animal models also reduced inflammation, which could benefit bone health as well as overall recovery.

The findings open a door of understanding towards the use of synthetic bone grafts as a therapeutic option.

“These results advance our understanding towards multipronged therapeutic approaches utilizing synthetic bone graft substitutes as a drug delivery vehicle, and more importantly, demonstrate the feasibility of localized tumor cell suppression and bone cell proliferation for post-surgical defect repair application,” concluded the researchers.

The researchers look forward to continuing their work, studying specific pathways of the genetic expression of natural compounds and the benefits of integrating them in biomedical technology.

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