The future of medical implants (the titanium ones, not the silicon ones), primarily within the realm of broken bones and deteriorated joints, is looking bright…hot.
Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered that cell growth proceeds almost twice as quickly on a metallic surface that has been heat-treated to form an intricately rough texture – on the nanoscopic level – than on one that has been left unmodified.
At about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, and with the right chemical environment, tiny filaments, each about one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair, begin to rise out of the specimen of titanium and coat the surface. And that’s about it: with a particular composition of gases at the right temperature, the process just involves sitting back and waiting for the strands to form.
“Seriously, if you spent the day in my lab, you could learn how to do it yourself,” said Sheikh Akbar, head of the research group.
After manufacturing the material, the OSU team placed cancerous bone cells (used because of their robustness and reproductive similarity to normal bone cells) on smooth titanium and titanium dioxide surfaces as well as the “wired” titanium surface. The difference in growth was most evident in the first fifteen hours, during which 90,000 cells per square centimeter grew on the rough surface, compared to 50,000 on the smoother versions.
Faster cell growth is important in terms of immediate recovery, but the team looks forward to the benefits this provides for long-term implantation success.
“Our hope is that this surface treatment will become a simple-to-implement modification to titanium implants to help them form a stronger interface with surrounding bone tissue. A stronger interface means that implants and bones will be better able to share mechanical loads, and we can better preserve healthy bone and soft tissue around the implant site,” study co-author Derek Hansford said in a release. Click here to view some testimonials of hip replacement surgeries and recovery.
Akbar believes that the current process allows for financially feasible commercial development; about $100 of metal foil is enough to produce hundreds of samples. In addition, the filaments form spontaneously without requiring any labor-intensive carving or rearranging.