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Dead Space
28 June 2016

Dead Space

The stench of rotting flesh is not one easily forgotten. Surgeons faced with this are tasked with removing the offending tissue. What is left behind is dead space – an empty cavity that if untreated fills with blood and causes infection. To prevent this, cavities are filled with acrylic beads while the patient heals. However these beads don’t degrade and can themselves provide a surface for bacterial growth, meaning surgery can become necessary to remove them. New research examines whether beads of calcium sulphate could be used instead. Mice were operated on to create a dead space next to their spines, into which the beads were placed. Using a technique called micro-CT the beads were tracked over time, from day one (left) onwards. By day seven the beads were degrading (middle), completely disappearing by day 21 (right), giving time for the cavity to heal without the need for further surgery.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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