New Alloy Developed for Implant Infection Resistance

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have developed a surgical implant using 3D printing that exhibits a high degree of resistance to bacteria, particularly against staph infections. Published in the International Journal of Extreme Manufacturing, this development aims to enhance the success rate of common surgeries like hip and knee replacements by addressing the prevalent issue of bacterial colonization on implants. Traditional titanium implants, developed over half a century ago, often require additional antibiotic treatments and even revision surgeries in about 7% of cases due to infection.

New Alloy Developed for Implant Infection Resistance
Fatigue-testing the new infection-proof alloy. (Image Credit: Credit: Washington State University)

The WSU team, led by Amit Bandyopadhyay, enhanced the titanium alloy used in implants with 10% tantalum for corrosion resistance and 3% copper for its antibacterial properties. The copper component effectively ruptures bacterial cell walls upon contact, while tantalum promotes healthy cell growth around the bone and tissue, potentially leading to faster healing. The implant’s design was refined over three years, with comprehensive studies assessing its mechanical properties, biological response, antibacterial effectiveness, and wear to ensure minimal metal ion release into surrounding tissue.

Susmita Bose, a co-author of the study, emphasized the dual benefits of this multifunctional device in both infection control and promoting bone tissue integration. Looking forward, the team aims to increase the bacterial death rate to over 99% while ensuring the implant’s performance under real-life conditions. A provisional patent has been filed, and the project involved collaboration with Stanford University and WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Future research will likely focus on optimizing the antibacterial efficiency of these implants and ensuring their durability under various physical activities, paving the way for more reliable and safer surgical procedures in orthopedics and beyond.

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You can read the full research paper, titled “Additively manufactured Ti–Ta–Cu alloys for the next-generation load-bearing implants” at this link.

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