Manchester-Aveiro collaboration to explore next generation biomedical implants

A new collaboration between The University of Manchester and CICECO-Aveiro Institute of Materials will transform the field of biomedical implants.

The University of Manchester’s Dr Beatriz Mingo - RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year 2002 - will collaborate with Dr Isabel Sousa from CICERO-Aveiro Institute of Materials - the best ranked materials science research unit in Portugal (Portuguese Science Foundation) - to develop a technology that has the potential to serve as the foundation for the next generation of biomedical implants with enhanced properties.

Biodegradable materials for orthopaedic implants, such as screws, nails, or staples are of increasing clinical interest due to their ability to dissolve naturally after the bone has healed. This removes the need for additional surgical interventions to remove the implant, and the risk of further complication that this can cause.

Magnesium, with its bone-like density and biocompatibility, is considered the ideal material. However, its rate of degradation is extremely high and currently does not last the complete bone healing period.

The new project, funded by the Royal Society and starting this September, Dr Mingo and Dr Sousa aim to create a solution by developing a smart multilayer coating for magnesium substrates, in which each layer offers a specific functionality.

The ceramic layer increases the implant life, matching the rate of biodegradation to that of the bone healing time; while the organic top-coat loaded with encapsulated antibiotics, simultaneously releases antibiotic molecules in-situ where infections are most likely to occur.

"This will positively impact society by providing shorter treatment times for patients while relieving the financial burden of the NHS."

Dr Beatriz Mingo, Senior Lecturer and Royal Academy of Engineering Fellow at The University of Manchester, explains: "Our proposed technology has the potential to provide a foundation that transforms the future use of biomedical implants, creating an application that both optimises the healing process through the release of antibiotics, while eradicating the need for follow up surgeries - an additional risk of infection - to remove the implants. This will positively impact society by providing shorter treatment times for patients while relieving the financial burden of the NHS."

The research grant is part of Royal Society initiative to stimulate international collaborations with leading scientists. As part of the grant, Dr Mingo’s group members will visit the Univeristy of Aveiro to develop biodegradable gelatine capsules containing antibiotic agents and Dr Sousa will visit Manchester to incorporate these particles into coatings formed on magnesium based components.

Dr Beatriz Mingo is a materials scientist at The University of Manchester, whose research focuses on environmentally friendly surface treatments for light alloys.

In addition to this project announced today, she is also developing high-performance smart materials that can release corrosion inhibitors in response to the change in pH that accompanies the start of the corrosion process. Her research could extend the lifetime of lightweight components used in transport, which will help to create energy-efficient vehicles and support sustainable consumption of resources.

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