Researchers from the Ohio State University have developed a method for growing nanowires that can significantly strengthen the bond between implants and bones and help broken bones heal faster.
The team led by Professor Sheikh Akbar found that a textured surface made bone cells grow and reproduce more quickly than a smooth surface. The best results were seen when the cells were provided with a microscopic shag carpet to cling to. The carpet was made of microscopic metal oxide wires. When the researchers conducted tests, they found that the wires increased cell growth by almost 80% in comparison with other surfaces. According to the study report, which was published in the Ceramics International journal, this suggests that coating implants with the nanowires can strengthen their bond with the healthy bone faster than other surfaces.
Akbar noted that the wire creation (a process the team has called “nanostructures by material design”) was itself a very exciting technique. There is no need to carve them from metal or alloys because the researchers can grow them from a mixture of materials and gases heated in a furnace to about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The filaments of titanium oxide that were formed developed a protective cover of aluminium oxide. This is something the team has no explanation for because the engineers used pure titanium. They plan to conduct further analysis to try and understand where the aluminium coating came from.
According to co-author Derek Hansford, this coating could help people with hip and knee joint replacement and dental implants, as well as those requiring screws and plates for the repair of broken bones. Akbar added that the production technique was quite affordable and could go into commercial development: $100 worth of metal foil suffices to create hundreds of samples.