Researchers at Purdue University have shown that artificial joints might be improved by making the implants out of tiny carbon tubes and filaments that are all aligned in the same direction, mimicking the alignment of collagen fibers and natural ceramic crystals in real bones.
The researchers already have shown in a series of experiments that bone cells in Petri dishes attach better to materials that possess smaller surface bumps than are found on conventional materials used to make artificial joints. The smaller features also stimulate the growth of more new bone tissue, which is critical for the proper attachment of artificial joints once they are implanted. Now, the Purdue researchers have shown even more enhanced cell adhesion and growth when so-called "nanotubes" and nanofibers are aligned in the same direction. This orientation is similar to the way collagen and natural ceramic crystals, called hydroxyapatite, are aligned in bone, said Thomas Webster, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue.
Findings were presented at two recent scientific conferences in research papers written by Webster; Purdue physics doctoral student Dongwoo Khang; and three researchers from the Seoul National University in South Korea, physics doctoral students Minbaek Lee and Sun Namkung, and physics professor Seunghun Hong. Previous experiments in the Purdue lab have shown that about one-third more bone-forming cells, or osteoblasts, attach to carbon nanotubes that possess surface bumps about as wide as 100 nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Fewer bone cells stick to conventional titanium, which has surface features on the scale of microns, or millionths of a meter.
Thomas Webster | EurekAlert!
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