Enhancing bone implant performance and longevity through novel surface functionalisations

Dr Jason Mansell from UWE Bristol's Centre for Research in Biosciences is currently developing superior, multi-functional bone biomaterials for orthopaedic and dental applications.

The research team currently comprises Professor Ashley Blom (University of Bristol and Regional Director of the Health Integrated Team for Orthopaedics), Professor Stephen Denyer (Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Brighton), Dr Wayne Ayre (Bioengineering, Cardiff University), Dr Rachael Gooberman-Hill (Patient and Public Involvement, University of Bristol) and Dr Tom Scott (Director of the Interface Analysis Centre, University of Bristol). An estimated £300m is spent each year on surgical revisions for failed total joint prostheses.

Dr Mansell is leading research on enhancing the material properties of prosthetic materials (primarily titanium) by coating them with a simple bioactive lipid which he discovered enhanced the action of vitamin D3 metabolites on bone forming osteoblast cells. "It's widely recognised that vitamin D3 is key to skeletal health and if you can find ways of enhancing that vitamin D3 effect at a prosthetic surface then you're more likely to encourage better bonding of the implant to the patients' bone." Dr Mansell stresses that "by encouraging better bonding you have the real chance of reducing implant failures through loosening, from both a financial and patient healthcare perspective these changes would be especially significant."

Through the support of the Severnside Alliance for Translational Research (SARTRE) Dr Mansell and his team have made significant progress in developing bio-functionalised titanium which exhibits two noteworthy properties. In the first instance human osteoblast responses to vitamin D3 are enhanced when they are exposed to the lipid-modified metal. Secondly the functionalised material exhibits anti-adherence properties towards a bacterium often associated with implant failures through infection, namely MRSA. Biomaterials that exhibit these particular properties have not been described elsewhere which places Dr Mansell and his team at a unique clinical advantage.

Speaking about the importance of the research Dr Mansell explains that "the socioeconomic cost of revision arthroplasty will only rise given the prediction of an increasing elderly demographic. To tackle this major healthcare issue we need to find ways of enhancing the overall quality and performance of existing bone biomaterials like titanium. The recent finding that our modified devices also deter the attachment and growth of MRSA makes our functionalisation strategy even more appealing to the implant manufacturers and our healthcare providers."

Please email Dr Jason Mansell at jason.mansell@uwe.ac.uk for more information.

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