June 23, 1998 PASCO, Wash., June 20--Scientists today reported a new way to coat the surface of metal implants--used to replace hip, knee, finger, and shoulder joints--with materials that facilitate the growth of new bone. The new technology was described here at the Northwest Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Called Surface Induced Mineralization (SIM), the technique deposits calcium phosphate coatings on the surfaces of implants made of titanium and other metals. Since SIM technology is a water-based process, it is possible to incorporate growth factors, which promote new bone cells, directly into the coating. This represents a unique opportunity to create coatings that cause active new bone formation around, into or through itself, according to Allison A. Campbell, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.
Dr. Campbell explained that most implants fail after a period of about 10 years because they become loose. The new coatings are designed to extend the life of the implant by stimulating the growth of new bone, which bonds with the natural bone surrounding it, thus anchoring the implant more firmly in place.
Dr. Campbell presided at a symposium at which she and nine other scientists reported new progress in the creation and use of biologically active materials, and the way the body responds to them. Such "bioactive" materials can grow new bone, deliver medications, and serve as a "scaffolding" on which the body can grow new tissue.
Dr. Campbell said the importance of biomaterials science has accelerated in recent years, as joint replacement surgery has become more sophisticated, even to the point where it is now possible to repair the hand--the body's most complicated mechanism--by replacing the joints of the fingers.
A nonprofit organization with a membership of more than 155,000 chemists and chemical engineers as its members, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
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