The technology is being developed by Dr Kajal Mallick of the university’s Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and postgraduate researcher James Meredith. The pair believes the process could offer a range of benefits to patients undergoing bone implant surgery.
The process works by shaping the implant material through a mould to produce a 3D honeycomb texture. This mould has uniform pores throughout and can be sculpted by surgeons to accurately match the defect.
Following implantation, bone cells can be transported into the implant to form new bone. Over a period of time, the researchers expect that the synthetic bone will dissolve to leave natural bone behind.
Dr Mallick said: ‘We worked with a Japanese company that manufactures catalytic converters and used its facility to produce samples that we could then test in the laboratory.
‘We found we were able to use calcium phosphates, a family of bioceramics that are routinely used in bone implant operations, but by using this technique we were able to improve significantly both the strength and porosity of the implant.’
Possible applications of the strengthened material could include revision hip and knee operations or spinal surgery where non-degradable materials such as steel and titanium are commonly used.
According to Dr Mallick, there are no products in the marketplace that simultaneously improve both strength and blood flow for the formation of new bone cells.
The process is hoped to eliminate the need for a separate surgical procedure to harvest the bone, leading to faster patient recovery and reducing the amount of time and resources spent on revision surgery.
Warwick Ventures, the university’s technology transfer office, is in the process of seeking partners to help commercialise the technology and will be presenting its work on 9 December 2008 as part of a conference organised by the London Biotechnology Network.