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The Future of Nanotechnology in Orthopaedics

Nanovation Partners, with offices in California and Florida, is working with OEMs to apply its patented anodization technology to the next generation of Class II devices. The same nanotube technology was licensed from UCSD by a dental company and is now used on a 510(k)-cleared dental implant. Nanovis, based in Indiana, has a similar technology platform that it plans to commercialize first with a nanotube surface treatment and then an antimicrobial one. Both companies see the ability to forge a regulatory path with each generation of product.

“The promise of a truly directed nanotechnology, not random, but trying to direct a response the size of a protein, is really exciting,” says Matt Hedrick, CEO of Nanovis. “To think about using that technology to regenerate soft tissue or apply to spine—that is a wonderful pathway for science, and it’s a real human benefit.”


Methicillin-resistant Staphaureus (MRSA) and Aspergillus flavus
(left to right)

Shirwaiker's research shows the effect of LIDC-activated
silver-titanium prototype device on the growth of MRSA (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) and A. flavus (fungus),
both known to cause orthopaedic infections. 

The antimicrobial component of nanotechnology is a major focus of university research, says Rohan Shirwaiker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University. Shirwaiker, who recently made headlines for his battery-activated nanotechnology device, received the Best Young Investigator Research Poster Award from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) in 2014. A portion of his research is focused on electric currents, through the use of a battery, releasing silver ions from a coating that would stave off infection.                           

“It is a much more effective way of controlling how many ions you are releasing, which then controls how fast you kill bacteria,” Shirwaiker says.

Shirwaiker’s Ph.D. dissertation looked at electrically activated silver as a material for hospital bed rails and doorknobs to repel bacteria. That technology is being commercialized. His research on implantables is still in the early stage. Through early rat tests, he is working to minimize the toxicity of the silver in the body.

“With any material, especially when you’re talking about nanoscale, ions and making things smaller, you have to be extremely careful in that while these things can kill bacteria and bad germs, they can also affect the human cells,” Shirwaiker says.

Shirwaiker sees the first use of the technology for infections during joint replacement. The implant would be removed; his implant would be put in until the infection clears and a new implant would be placed.

He eventually sees the use of nanotechnology evolving into sensors being placed into a hollow implant in order to send data to surgeons to detect items like proper load and infection rates. Commercialization of such technology is more than a decade away.


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