Metal 'foam' Developed for Bone Implants

DRESDEN, Germany, Sept. 23 (UPI) — A new material for bone implants could replace current solid metal implants and improve flexibility and bone regrowth, German engineers say.

Typical solid metal implants — usually titanium — are well tolerated by the body but cause problems by being significantly stiffer than bone, NewScientist.com reported.


The implant may end up carrying a far higher load than the bone it is placed next to, says Peter Quadbeck of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials Research in Dresden, Germany.

In a worst-case scenario, he says, the decrease in stress placed on the surrounding natural bone means it will deteriorate, while the implant loosens and needs to be replaced.

Quadbeck and colleagues have created a titanium implant with a foam-like structure, inspired by the spongy nature of bone. The titanium foam does a better job than solid metal when it comes to matching the mechanical properties of bone, they say.

And the foam is porous, so the bone can grow around and within it, truly integrating the implant with the skeleton.

Peter Lee of the Department of Materials at Imperial College London says he is impressed.

There are applications where inserting one of these titanium foams “looks like the most promising solution,” he says, such as bridging long gaps between broken bones.

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