Nanotechnology may allow hip implants to sense growth of new bone

Growing multiwalled carbon nanotubes on a titanium surface enhances the electrochemical behavior of the surface in a way that might lead to better implants for hip replacements. The nanotech-prepared titanium surface serves as a sensor to detect bone formation. As reported by James Tyrrell at (requires free registration) “Nanotubes on the look out for new bone“:

Multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) grown in pores on a titanium (Ti) surface are ideal for detecting bone growth, according to Thomas Webster and his team at Brown University, US [Nanotechnology abstract]. By adding the biosensing structure to the surface of orthopedic implants, the inventors hope to monitor the success of procedures such as hip replacements in situ.

Poor adhesion to the surrounding bone is the most common cause of hip replacement failure. Currently, the diagnosis of new bone growth can be problematic as today’s imaging techniques each have their own limitations and difficulties — something that Webster and his colleagues hope to overcome.

“The idea is that our sensor will communicate the status of the surrounding tissue via radio frequencies to a handheld device,” Webster told “In fact, we’ve taken things a step further and coated our sensor with a drug-containing polymer layer that can be degraded to release bone building agents on demand.”

…Next, the team plans to begin animal studies. “It’s a big and important jump to determine if the sensors will work in an animal,” said Webster. “We’ll be using rats and analyzing whether new bone growth can be measured and then controlled.”


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