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Transforming medical implants

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- Currently, medical implants used for everything from coronary stents to repairing a torn ligament are made with titanium alloys or stainless steel. That creates problems because those materials are permanent, causing clinical complications, and eventually leading to failure.

Huinan Liu, an assistant professor of bioengineering in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside, is working to alleviate those problems by developing biodegradable medical implant materials that would promote tissue regeneration and disappear after serving their functions in the body.

Liu recently received a $175,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue the research for the next two years.

Liu's work will focus on using magnesium-based alloys in medical implants. She is seeking to find alloys and surfaces which promote tissue growth and degrade naturally in the body before being released through urine.

The biodegradable implants would have a wide range of uses.

In orthopedics, they could be used to repair everything from knee and hip joints to ligaments to rotator cuffs. They could be used for vascular applications, such as stenting and grafting. There would also be uses for facial reconstruction and spinal injuries.

The grant also has an education component to it.

Liu, in conjunction with UC Riverside's ALPHA Center, which works with local schools to improve student performance in math and science, will coordinate public outreach events that will show people how nanoscience and nanotechnology can impact health.

She is also developing a tissue engineering class for the Bourns College of Engineering. And, she will serve as a mentor to graduate and undergraduate students working on this research, preparing a well-trained workforce in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Contact: Sean Nealon
University of California - Riverside

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