Extending Life of Bone Implant

According to a team of EU researchers, in the future stainless steel for bone implants will be replaced by fibre composites.

The researchers are collaborating on research into the technological properties of composites that have a better capacity to adapt to the skeleton, thereby hopefully eliminating risky re-operations.

These scientists are part of a major EU-funded project that goes by the name of NEWBONE. The whole team comprises researchers from nine countries. Osteoporosis is a common and costly disease for society today. Skeletal cancer and serious bone fractures also require expensive treatment. Normally worn parts are replaced with bone implants of metal, but one problem is that the implants need to be replaced after a time. The aim of NEWBONE is to find replacement materials that allow the bone's tissue to be recreated.

"We want to increase the compatibility of the new material with the human skeleton and reduce the number of risky re-operations," explains Mikael Skrifvars, professor of polymer technology at the University College of Borås, and one of the researchers in the project.

"We're working with a variant of fibre composites (that is, reinforced
plastics) that have properties that are compatible with the bones of the skeleton. This means that the mechanical properties of the implant will be the same as those of the bone and that the implant will function well together with the skeleton," continues Karri Airola, a researcher at the University College of Borås.

"The new bone implant would offer several advantages compared with metal implants. With metal implants, there is sometimes a risk that the patient will have to undergo another operation, to replace the implant. For implants made of fibre composite, this risk is smaller, since the properties of the fibre composite more closely mimic those of the bone."

"The new implant materials represent a new technology that needs to be developed. The combination of polymers and fibreglass provides very strong materials, and when their surface has been treated with bioactive glass, these implants can grow together with bone tissue. On top of this, new production methods will need to be introduced."

COMPAMED.de; Source: The Swedish Research Council