Researchers create bone tissue, restore cartilage, make artificial bones, produce personal implants and improve implant survivalrates,and also make MRI scans safer for people with implants.
Things move fast in the world of modern medicine, it is easy to see how advances in health and medicine have touched the lives of nearly every person on the planet.
WHO expects the number of people over 60 will doublebetween 2015 and 2050: from 900 million to 2 billion. Society will need time to adapt to this growth. For example, it took almost 150 years for France to adjust tothe increased number of senior citizensthat went from 10 to 20 percent; and countries like Brazil, China, and India will need more than 20 years.
EU citizens enjoy near-universal access to healthcare, their life expectancy — already among the highest in the world — continues to increase while infant mortality rates have dropped to such low levels that the indicator is often no longer relevant (for this part of the world) said Eurostat focusing on Quality of life indicators this January.
Many of the most compelling medical innovations and the most promising novel forms of health care deliverycome from universities. The dynamics of the universities from the Russian Academic Excellence program are unprecedented, taking into account that only about four years have passed since the launch of the project. Their research in traumatology, implantology and further rehabilitation result in emerging innovationsthat contribute to finding ways to deliver care effectively at lower cost while increasing accessand quality.
Restoringcartilage and making personal implants
Researchers at Sechenov Medical Universityhave developedcartilage restoring technology. Articular cartilage is a joint’s weak point wheredegenerative changes begin. Osteoarthrosis is a serious disease that almost 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from. To address this, Sechenov University is implementing a new treatment: restoring the cartilage instead of replacing the joint with an artificial one. Specialists take a biopsy of the patient’s articular cartilage and then grow the tissue cells in the laboratory, which will later be used to form cartilage that can be inserted back into the patient.
Even if the disease has reached a serious stage and there is no chance to restore the cartilage, specialists at the university can still help. The clinic has launched a project to use personal implants and surgical tools in traumatology and orthopedics. They are based on each patient’s CAT scan image. The same technology is used to fit hip and knee joint prostheses. Scientists say this year they will continue to implement prototyping technology in other areas.
Making artificial bones more similar to natural bones
Several research groups at Tomsk State University are creating new implant materials and improving the quality of existing implants. These developments make the quality of life for patients who must undergo complex rehabilitation surgery significantly better. Thanks to improvedquality, implants survivelonger and patients can resume their normal life faster.
For example, scientists have found a new way to increase the surfaceroughness of pore walls in porous materials using a TiNi-based alloy. Such materials are used in maxillofacial surgery and dentistry to replace or reconstruct bone tissue. Due to the number of technical conditions set for heat processing of the TiNi powder, terrace-like reliefs appear on the surface and improve implant endurance rates. “The most important thing is that we can set the necessary structural elements when producing the alloy,” scientists noted, adding that thanks to this no additional adjustments are needed after the implant is ready.
The University’s chemists also work in the field oftraumatology and orthopedics. They proposed using the existing sol-gel method to create biocompatible composites to replace a damaged or lost fragment of the patient’s bone tissue. The sol-gel method is used to synthesize a material with preset characteristics, which involves producing a sol (colloidal solution when particles are not connected to astrict space structure) and then integrating it into a gel and drying it. The method can be used to produce very thin materials with the necessary characteristics at lower temperatures and pressure and it also improves the structure of the bioactive coatings. The advantages include a high degree of particle uniformity,the possibility to coat materials of any shape and size and the purity of the final product.
This, in turn, will allow a decrease in the implant rejection rate and accelerate the rehabilitation process. This research is supported by a presidential grant; soon the new technology will be tested in vitro and in vivo, and the scientists will present the results late next year.
In addition, the chemists have patented a method to synthesize nanosized hydroxyapatite/agarose powders for bone filler (hydroxyapatite is the main mineral component of bone tissue). Vegetable gelatin made from algae burns out at high temperatures and leaves pores in the material, which helps bone tissue grow through the implant and increase the synthetic material’s compatibility with human tissue. This method provides the necessary structure to the material and makes the artificial bone more similar to natural bone. Hydroxyapatite is also effectively used to produce implants in maxillofacial surgery, dentistry, traumatology and orthopedics.
Improving bone implant survivalrates
Toimprove bone implant survival rates, scientists at Tomsk Polytechnic University have synthesized nanotubes with calcium-phosphate coatings identical to human bones on the surface. These nanotubes decrease the burden on the implant during movement due to a high specific surface area. In addition, various drugs to help a patient fight disease can be loaded into them.
Researchers have also designed special piezoelectric-polymer carcasses with mineral nanoparticles that can be successfully used to restore bone tissue. These polymers produce an electric charge under mechanical impact, thus activating live tissue cells and making them grow and undergo fission. These materials survive well in the organism and stimulate bone tissue to grow and restore faster by transforming compression-rarefaction energy into electrical impulses.
Making MRI scans safer for people with implants
Today, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to diagnose many diseases from arthritis to cancer. However, people with medical implants cannot be diagnosed with an MRI with high intensity due to the risk of tissue being heatedaround the implant and breaking down.
Scientists at ITMO University with their colleagues from the Netherlands and Great Britain have resolved this problem with a metasurface-based device. A metasurfaceis an ordered structure that can redistribute the electromagnetic field inside the MRI scan and concentrate it around itself. Experiments have shown that a metasurface structure allows a decrease inthe energy that is required during a scanto receive high-quality images. Lower scan capacities make the procedure safe for people with medical implants.
Scientists say that during the project theydeveloped a metasurface and placed it into a hypoallergenic plastic case. Metasurfaces can manage the distribution of the electromagnetic field (amplitude, phase, and polarization) near the source with relatively low frequencies. The scientists believe this approach will make it possible to increase existing clinical scan resolutions. According to their calculations, metasurface-based equipment will result in lower MRI costs thanks to a decrease in the time needed to diagnose a patient and an increase in the scan’s capacity withthe same image quality.
Treating strokes and creating bone tissue
Researchers at the National University of Science and Technology MISIS (NUST MISIS) have developed a therapeutic complex to treat strokes and medulla trauma. Medulla trauma is among the most dangerous traumas. If the spinal cord is damaged or a vessel is torn in a stroke, hypoxia appears in the nearby tissue: a pathologic process related to the lack of oxygen takes place. It blocks the final element in the cell breathing process and results in asurplus of free radicals and launches a chain reaction leading to tissue damage and cell death.
NUST MISIS specialists, together with their US colleagues, have solvedthis problem by creating an innovative therapeutic complex based on synthesized antioxidant nanoparticles. The new substance can be used for effective rehabilitation after acute medulla trauma, stroke, and heart attack. Successful tests on rodents showed prospects for eradicating free radicals, reducing swellings and inflammations, and accelerating rehabilitation after medulla trauma, stroke, and heart attack. The researchers are planning to complete the preclinical trials soon.
Another issue that NUST MISIS scientists are workingon is creating innovative materials identical to bone tissue and joints. Human bone tissue is a material with unique properties. It is stable and yet elastic, which helps it work in the body for decades under constant load.
However, it is vulnerable and can be damagedover time, so the scientists,in cooperation with their Canadian colleagues, developed an alloy with the same elasticity as bone tissue. The alloy is made from biocompatible materials: titanium, zirconium, and niobium. Due to its biomechanical properties, the alloy can significantly prolong the durability of an implant.
Low durability is the main weakness of mostartificial joints currently available. NUST MISIS scientists working on this problem have strengthened polyethylene, the basic element used for artificial joints, with carbon nanotubes, thus doubling the level of durability. According to projections, this implant will serve for more than 15 years.
Emerging market in health care innovation
Health care is consuming an escalating share of income in developed and developing nations alike. Researchers from Project 5-100 universities note that the medical equipment industry is developing rapidly due to quickly growing demand.
Global geriatric trend (people 60 and older) is leading to a growing demand for medical equipment. According to a World Bank report, today, people aged 65 comprise about 9 percent of the world’s population. The United States predicts that this number will reach 21.1 percent by 2050. The report EvaluateMedTech World Preview 2015, Outlook to 2020 shows that the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of the medical equipment market will reach 4.1 percent per year by 2020. It is assumed that the market will continue to grow, so hospitalsneed to improve their performance.