With greater than 500,000 orthopaedic procedures performed in the United States each year requiring a bone graft, the development of novel graft materials is necessary. We report that some porous polymer/ceramic composite scaffolds possess intrinsic osteoinductivity as shown through their capacity to induce in vivo host osteoid mineralization and in vitro stem cell osteogenesis making them attractive synthetic bone graft substitutes. It was discovered that certain low crystallinity ceramics partially dissociate into simple signaling molecules (i.e., calcium and phosphate ions) that induce stem cells to endogenously produce their own osteoinductive proteins. Review of the literature has uncovered a variety of simple signaling molecules (i.e., gases, ions, and redox reagents) capable of inducing other desirable stem cell differentiation through endogenous growth factor production. Inductive simple signaling molecules, which we have termed inducerons, represent a paradigm shift in the field of regenerative engineering where they can be utilized in place of recombinant protein growth factors.
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