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Zinc is a vital and beneficial trace element found in the human body. Though found in small proportions, zinc performs a variety of functions in relation to the immune system, cell division, fertility and the body growth and maintenance. In particular, zinc is proven to be a necessary element for the formation, mineralization, development and maintenance of healthy bones. Considering this attractive attributes of zinc, recent research has widely focused on using zinc along with silicate-based bioactive glasses for bone tissue engineering applications. This paper reviews relevant literature discussing the significance of zinc in the human body, along with its ability to enhance antibacterial effects, bioactivity and distinct physical, structural and mechanical properties of bioactive glasses. In this context, even if the present analysis is not meant to be exhaustive and only representative studies are discussed, literature results confirm that it is essential to understand the properties of zinc-containing bioactive glasses with respect to their in vitro biological behavior, possible cytotoxic effects and degradation characteristics to be able to effectively apply these glasses in bone regeneration strategies. Topics attracting increasing research efforts in this field are elaborated in detail in this review, including a summary of the structural, physical, biological and mechanical properties of zinc-containing bioactive glasses. This paper also presents an overview of the various applications in which zinc-containing bioactive glasses are considered for use as bone tissue scaffolds, bone filling granules, bioactive coatings and bone cements, and advances and remaining challenges are highlighted.
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