Researchers have developed an improved coating technique that could strengthen the connection between titanium joint-replacement implants and a patients' own bone. The stronger connection -- created by manipulating signals the body's own cells use to encourage growth -- could allow the implants to last longer.
Implants coated with "flower bouquet" clusters of an engineered protein that mimics the body's own cell-adhesion material fibronectin made 50 percent more contact with the surrounding bone than implants coated with protein pairs or individual strands. The cluster-coated implants were fixed in place more than twice as securely as plugs made from bare titanium -- which is how joints are currently attached.
Researchers believe the biologically-inspired material improves bone growth around the implant and strengthens the attachment and integration of the implant to the bone. This work also shows for the first time that biomaterials presenting biological sequences clustered together at the nanoscale enhance cell adhesion signals. These enhanced signals result in higher levels of bone cell differentiation in human stem cells and promote better integration of biomaterial implants into bone.
"By clustering the engineered fibronectin pieces together, we were able to create an amplified signal for attracting integrins, receptors that attached to the fibronectin and directed and enhanced bone formation around the implant," said Andrs Garca, professor in Georgia Tech's Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
Details of the new coating were reported in the August 18 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Arthritis Foundation, and the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute through the Georgia Tech/Emory Center for the Engineering of Living Tissues.
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