What's the Point of the World's First Biodegradable Joint Implant?

Illustration for article titled Whats the Point of the Worlds First Biodegradable Joint Implant?

Think of joint implants, and you probably picture hard-wearing structures made of titanium designed to last for decades. Now a new joint implant has been launched which is biodegradable—but what's the point?


Designed at Finland's Tampere University of Technology, the new implant is made from a polylactide copolymer, and is designed to be used in small joints, like those in the finger. The idea is that, instead of removing bone to make room for an entire replacement joint, the small implant promotes the growth of new, fibrous tissue around it. Over time, the implant disappears and is replaced by real tissue.

While the new joint doesn't work in exactly the same way as a natural one—it's stiffer and the range of movement is more limited—the process is easier for the body to deal with. That means quicker recovery times, less chance of rejection and longer-lasting joints. So while it might sound short-sighted, it should allow joint replacements that work far better. The implants have even completed clinical trials—so one could be in a joint near you soon. [Tampere University via Slashdot]

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The issue is that joints are extraordinarily complex from a biological and biomechanical POV (we don't even really have great ways of modeling them computationally yet), so it's far more effective to provide a framework for the body to regrow it's own tissue than to come up with novel materials that satisfy the many requirements to replace joint tissues.

(FYI: I know the question was a setup to the reason why it's a good idea... I'm just further clarifying :3)