U.S. scientists have discovered a nanomaterial that can improve orthopedic implants and might lead to implants that can sense and report on bone growth.
For orthopedic implants to be successful, bone must meld to the metal used in artificial hips, knees and shoulders. Now Brown University engineers, led by Thomas Webster, have discovered a material that could significantly aid that process.
The researchers found a titanium surface covered by carbon nanotubes can produce faster, better growth of implanted bone-growing cells and an improved success rate for orthopedic surgery. The carbon nanotubes can even self-report, keeping physicians informed about the healing process, the researchers said.
The team took titanium — the most popular implant material — and anodized it, creating a pitted coating in the surface of the titanium. The researchers then applied a cobalt catalyst and subjected the samples to a chemical process that involved heating them to 1,202 degrees Fahrenheit. That caused carbon nanotubes to sprout from each pit.
The scientists then placed human osteoblasts, or bone-forming cells, on the nanotube-covered samples. The team found the bone cells grew twice as fast on the titanium covered nanotubes.