A great deal of orthopedic implants have to be removed, or left forever in the body. The extra surgery that is required, or the discomfort and other side effects of having metal left in your body, are often pretty serious burdens on the patients and clinicians treating them. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials in Bremen, Germany have been working on durable implants that degrade and slowly dissolve into the body for further secretion.
The implants are made from a mix of an iron alloy and beta-tricalcium phosphate (TCP), a ceramic material. The iron degrades slowly, but provides the necessary strength to maintain the structural integrity, while the ceramic breaks down faster and promotes new tissue generation and ingrowth into the implant. The researchers used powder injection molding to combine the two materials into a tough solid, and this technique also provided the ability to adjust the density and porosity of the implants as necessary. This technology may also lead to highly personalized orthopedic implants that break down in a pre-programmed manner.
There’s still considerable work to be done before this technology is being used in clinical applications, but the researchers are already pushing ahead with developing a solution to monitor how the implants break down to better understand how they would work in the body.
(hat tip: Gizmodo)