When New Eng­land Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski missed the first six games of last season because of a forearm injury, what kept him off the field was not the broken bone he suf­fered months ear­lier but rather a per­sis­tent infec­tion where he received a metal plate to help repair his arm.

Tom Web­ster, a chem­ical engi­neer at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, believes Gronkowski might have avoided infec­tion and returned to action faster if the plate had been made of a new kind of mate­rial in devel­op­ment at his nanomed­i­cine laboratory.

Nano­ma­te­rials, as they are called, have been shown in tests to repel bac­teria and help sur­rounding tissue heal faster than normal because their struc­tures more closely resemble those of real bone and muscle.

In reality, the mate­rials are not new. They are just smaller. The chief prin­ciple of nanomed­i­cine is that the prop­er­ties of mate­rials used for med­ical parts — tita­nium, for instance, or sil­icon nitride, a ceramic used in joint replace­ments — can be altered simply by shrinking their fun­da­mental building blocks.

Read the article at The Boston Globe →