By: 7 March 2016
New discovery strengthens how bones bond to titanium orthopaedic implants

New discovery strengthens how bones bond to titanium orthopaedic implants

Scientists at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have discovered a new way of making titanium implants bond better with bones. Successful implant surgery is dependent on this bonding process working so that the implant integrates into the patient’s skeleton.

A team led by Jason Mansell from UWE Bristol found that titanium implants used in surgery could be coated with lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), a bioactive lipid that interacts with vitamin D to enhance bone-forming cell function – which helps to strengthen the bonding properties of implants to bone.

Around 10 per cent of joint replacements fail due to loosen-ing of the bond between implant and bone, and Mansell and his co-workers believe that their research could herald a breakthrough in orthopaedics, helping to save patients who require implants from the trauma of repeated surgery if their implants fail to bond.

The team is working in partnership with orthopaedic consultant Ashley Blom, a musculoskeletal expert and co-director of the Bristol Bones and Joints Health Integration Team (HIT) for the South West of England.

Describing his research, Mansell said: “We have found a way of joining LPA onto titanium using a simple process at room temperature. Simple procedures to titanium modifications are appealing to the companies that manufacture bone implants to keep costs to a minimum. We have found that our LPA-modified titanium works with vitamin D to support bone cell function.

“Recently we also discovered that our novel coating also deter-red the attachment of bacteria, this is particularly exciting as it means we have a potential dual-action titanium implant material.”

The team has also found that the coated titanium is resilient to washing and sterilisation, which could help ensure that the coating stays attached while the prosthesis is engineered into position and correctly aligned during surgery.

The work to date has received funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Orthopaedic Research UK. The next stage of the project which is currently seeking further funding will examine how robust and stable the coatings are as they need to withstand the rigours of storage, sterilisation and the physical forces they will experience when implanted into the body.