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Newly started FP7 project set to boost life of joint replacements

Contributed by: TuTech Innovation

A European research consortium involving industrial and research partners, led by the University of Leeds, has been awarded €13.3 million of European Union FP7 funding for a five-year project to dramatically improve the longevity and reliability of articulating joint replacements such as hip implants.
A European research consortium involving industrial and research partners, led by the University of Leeds, has been awarded €13.3 million of European Union funding for a five-year project to dramatically improve the longevity and reliability of articulating joint replacements such as hip implants. “LifeLongJoints” aims to develop novel silicon nitride coatings to reduce implant wear and corrosion and ideally make further revision operations unnecessary.

The worldwide cost of artificial joints currently exceeds €14 billion a year. This figure is set to rise significantly as both the population ages and these implants become used in younger patients. Whilst this operation is extremely successful, with 90 % or more functioning well at 10 years, the number of overall implants means that a low percentage of failures can affect a considerable number of patients. These revisions procedures, which can be caused by the wear and corrosion of the implants, are increasing faster than primary interventions, with serious consequences for public health systems. Clearly the longevity and reliability of artificial joints must be improved if public confidence in this intervention is to be maintained.

LifeLongJoints intends to overcome the problem of implant wear and corrosion by the novel approach of using silicon nitride-based coatings in which the combined high wear resistance of the material and the solubility of any silicon nitride wear particles released reduce the overall potential for adverse tissue reactions. A variety of coatings will be considered in a range of tribological scenarios related to total hip arthroplasty and the suitability of the coatings assessed against target profiles, with particular attention paid to performance under unconventional conditions.

Funded under the EU’s Framework 7 research theme “Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials and new production technologies” (FP7-NMP), the project unites 14 research institutes and industry partners in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK and is coordinated by the University of Leeds (UK). The knowledge and technology transfer organisation TuTech Innovation in Hamburg (Germany) will be responsible for preparing project results for market introduction and communicating them to opinion formers and multipliers in the field of joint implants.

“In addition to our role as project coordinator, the University of Leeds will be concentrating on evaluating the coating in a functional manner using novel mechanical simulators with advanced sensing capabilities for wear and corrosion, biological tests of the wear particles and corrosion products as well as computational modelling. These activities will then be integrated with data, models and know-how gained from partners to provide a fuller picture of the coatings’ performance in standard and, importantly, non-standard tests that reflect the spectrum of challenges that these joints face in every day scenarios when in the body. The results of these activities will be exploited by the industrial partners.” said the co-ordinators, Profs Richard M Hall & Anne Neville and Dr Joanne Tipper, University of Leeds.

LifeLongJoints - Silicon Nitride Coatings for Improved Implant Function – is a large scale integrating project addressing bjective NMP-2012.2.2-1: Biomaterials for Improved Performance of Medical Implants. It began on 1 April 2013 and runs until 31 March 2018.
Please visit http://www.lifelongjoints.eu for further details or contact llj@tutech.de.

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