A groundbreaking surgical implant developed by researchers at Washington State University (WSU) has demonstrated the ability to effectively eradicate 87% of the bacteria responsible for staph infections during laboratory tests. Unlike current implants, this new implant remains durable and compatible with surrounding tissue. The potential implications of this innovation could revolutionize infection control in various routine surgeries worldwide, such as knee and hip replacements.
Bacterial colonization remains a leading cause of implant failure and adverse post-surgical outcomes. Thus, the need for an effective solution to combat infections is imperative. Amit Bandyopadhyay, corresponding author and Boeing Distinguished Professor at WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, highlights the lack of defensive power that current implants possess against infections. The team sought to develop a material with inherent antibacterial properties to address this issue.
Most common surgical implants, including those used for knee and hip replacements, are made of titanium. However, titanium implants are susceptible to infections and have been challenging to overcome due to their limited antibacterial properties. Although surgeons frequently administer antibiotics preemptively, there is still a risk of life-threatening infection immediately or weeks after surgery. In cases where infection develops, doctors resort to systemic antibiotics or perform revision surgeries, which involves implant removal, site cleaning, antibiotic administration, and subsequent reimplantation.
To address these challenges, the WSU researchers incorporated tantalum, a corrosion-resistant metal, and copper into the titanium alloy used for the implants, utilizing 3D-printing technology. The addition of copper to the material’s surface results in the rupture of bacteria cell walls upon contact. Simultaneously, the tantalum promotes healthy cell growth and enhances healing processes. The researchers conducted extensive testing on the implant over a three-year period, evaluating its mechanical properties, biological response, and antibacterial effectiveness in both lab and animal models. Additionally, they assessed its wear to ensure no metal ions from the implant are released into surrounding tissues, which could cause toxicity.
This multi-functional implant demonstrates immense potential, as it offers both infection control and promotes bone tissue integration. Susmita Bose, co-author and Westinghouse Distinguished Professor at WSU, highlights the critical nature of infection control in the surgical field and hails the advantages of a multifunctional device that addresses this issue.
Moving forward, the researchers aim to further improve the implant’s antibacterial efficacy to surpass the standard 99% bacterial death rate, while ensuring continued successful tissue integration. Additionally, real-world loading conditions, such as those experienced during activities like hiking, will be considered to ensure optimal performance of the implant.
WSU’s Office of Commercialization is currently collaborating with the researchers on this project, and a provisional patent has been filed. Funding for this groundbreaking work was provided by the National Institutes of Health. The research also involved cooperation with researchers from Stanford University and WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Q: What is the main advantage of the new implant?
A: The main advantage of the new implant is its ability to combat bacterial infections while promoting tissue integration.
Q: What materials were added to the implant to enhance its antibacterial properties?
A: Tantalum, a corrosion-resistant metal, and copper were added to the titanium alloy, resulting in enhanced antibacterial properties.
Q: How long did the researchers study the implant?
A: The researchers conducted a comprehensive study of the implant over a period of three years.
Q: What is the next step in the research?
A: The researchers aim to improve the bacterial death rate to over 99% without compromising tissue integration, as well as ensure optimal performance under real-world loading conditions.