We’ve come a long way since the introduction in the 1950s of stainless steel hip replacement components affixed with methyl methacrylate cements. The prevalent thinking at the time equated biocompatibility with bio-inertness.
That all changed in 1967 when Larry Hench discovered a bioactive glass composition known today as Bioglass 45S5, named for its location on the SiO2-P2O5-CaO phase diagram. Hench discovered that the body not only tolerated this glass, but bonded with it, which opened an entirely new way of thinking about materials for healing.
In the early 2000s, Hench would go on to discover that the “inorganic ions released from certain bioactive glasses could alter the gene expression and cell signaling pathways of multiple cell types.” In other words, the glasses triggered a healing response by the body’s immune system. Hench showed that glasses activated healing responses not only in bone, but also in connective soft tissue.
With the discovery of 45S5, the door to discovery in the field of bioactive materials was forever opened, and the impact of Hench’s research is thus permanent.
How does a community honor such a man and such a body of work?
The June 2016 issue of The International Journal of Applied Glass Science is a Festschrift honoring the memory of Hench and celebrating his work. The Festschrift articles were contributed by today’s leading glass scientists working in this area. (The quote above is from an article in the Festschrift by David Greenspan, “Glass and Medicine: The Larry Hench Story.”)
“By any measure, Larry L. Hench was one of the great glass scientists of our times. In mourning his passing, it was especially gratifying to his many friends across the globe, and to the editors, that The International Journal of Applied Glass Science would publish a special edition in his honor and memory,” says IJAGS editor David Pye.
The Hench Festschrift includes a remembrance from Stephen Freiman, one of Hench’s first graduate students at University of Florida, in which Freiman describes the kind of man Hench was to work with and for.
The aforementioned Greenspan article succinctly describes the arc of Hench’s technical achievements and their evolving impact. The scientific articles that follow demonstrate the extraordinary legacy of Hench’s work that continues to unfold daily.
The issue is open access. It’s a window to the future—possibly your future.