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New implants associated with lower infection risks for orthopaedic surgery

The technology consists of novel Silver-Gallium (Ag-Ga) nano-amalgamated particles that can be easily applied to medical device surfaces.

In May a man paralysed in a motorcycle accident regained the ability to walk thanks to implants
In May a man paralysed in a motorcycle accident regained the ability to walk thanks to implants - Copyright AFP Fabrice COFFRINI
In May a man paralysed in a motorcycle accident regained the ability to walk thanks to implants - Copyright AFP Fabrice COFFRINI

Improved knee and hip replacements are a step closer after Flinders University and Chinese researchers developed a new orthopaedic implant coating. The coating has the ability to combat infection and to stimulate bone growth.

Infections after orthopaedic implant surgery are a key global health issue, with rates ranging from 2  to 10 percent in high-income countries and up to 15 percent in low-income regions. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 100,000 cases of orthopaedic device-related infections. A 2017 Australian study showed a 1.7 percent infection rate post-hip or knee replacements. About 6 percent of orthopaedic implant infections lead to intensive care with a mortality rate up to 4.6 percent.

By providing stability to bone fractures for example, orthopaedic implants assist in the biological aspects of bone healing by decreasing unwanted shear stress; hence, the use of implants plays an important role in promoting surgical recovery.

The technology consists of novel Silver-Gallium (Ag-Ga) nano-amalgamated particles that can be easily applied to medical device surfaces. To date, the Ag-Ga nano-amalgamated particles have exhibited potent antimicrobial properties against a broad spectrum of bacterial strains in animal models.

According to Dr Vi-Khanh Truong, from the Biomedical Nanoengineering Laboratory (BNL) at Flinders University: “The antibacterial capabilities of compounds derived from silver have been extensively researched. However, the cytotoxicity of silver ions currently poses a significant obstacle for the utilisation of silver ions in medical materials.”

The formula with the Ag-Ga nano-amalgamation is designed to ensure that the sustained release of silver and gallium ions in a very controlled manner works to eliminate these issues.

The new material can be applied by spray-casting on many medical devices to protect them against infection, and also provide anti-inflammatory effect and stimulate bone growth.

Dr Truong says that the discovery has the potential to apply to various implantable devices, catheters and other access devices, and even wound dressings where infections are also problematic.

He adds: “Commercialisation opportunities could make this solution available to clinicians and patients in the near future – at a time when growing antibiotic resistance is yet another problem in global healthcare.”

A specialised process was used to facilitate the galvanic deposition of silver nanocrystals (Ag) on oxide layer. The process not only serves as a carrier for silver through the galvanic replacement process but also provides a controlled-release mechanism for silver.

The research appears in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, titled “Silver-Gallium Nano-Amalgamated Particles as a Novel, Biocompatible Solution for Antibacterial Coatings”.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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