Elderly people often have to undergo surgery to replace their old hip joints with shiny new tita­nium ones. Unfor­tu­nately, these hip implants are not as good as they could be – an esti­mated 15% of hip replace­ment surg­eries in the USA were for already replaced hips.

Thomas Web­ster of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is working on a nano-​​sized solu­tion, devel­oping a system that will sense prob­lems with the implant and release drugs directly into the implant site. If an infec­tion occurs, the sensor – made of carbon and tita­nium nan­otubes – would detect the bac­teria. The sensor would then relay this infor­ma­tion through elec­trical sig­nals to another part of the implant where antibi­otics are stored, releasing them and stop­ping the infec­tion before it gets out of control.

When some­thing for­eign – such as a piece of metal – is put into the body, it is often spotted by the immune system. The immune system launches an attack, causing the joint to get inflamed – red, swollen and sore. Webster’s design would also fight inflam­ma­tion by detecting the pres­ence of active immune cells and calming them down with drugs. Sim­i­larly, it could pro­mote bone for­ma­tion which is so crit­ical to implant stability.

Read the article at The Guardian →