Metallic Glass Leads the Way Toward Dissolvable Bone Implants

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Scientists in Switzerland have developed a type of biodegradable metallic glass that could one day replace titanium and stainless steel as the metal that bone screws and other surgical implants are made of, according to an article in Nature Materials published online this week.

Because the new material created by scientists at ETH Zurich in Switzerland breaks down gradually and safely in the body, it could be used to manufacture orthopedic implants, such as bone screws — tools that hold bones in place so they can mend — which won’t require follow-up surgeries for removal.

The magnesium hurdle

When it comes to biodegradable metals tough and flexible enough to hold bones in place, iron- and magnesium-based alloys are the best candidates.

But “since iron degradation is slow, the first choice is magnesium,” Jörg Löffler, PhD, professor of metal physics and technology at ETH Zurich, and the corresponding author of the paper, tells DOTmed News.

Not only does magnesium degrade faster, when it dissolves, it releases harmless ions well tolerated by the body, says Dr. Löffler.

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