Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are developing very tiny electrochemical sensors that can monitor the rate of degradation of biodegradable, magnesium-based medical implants. These could possibly prevent extra surgical procedures in persons requiring medical implants.
One of the main reasons for medical implants is fractured bones. Implants will stabilize the structure of the bone and also help in the healing process. Medical implants have traditionally been made of non-biodegradable materials, such as titanium. Now, biodegradable implants that are magnesium-based are available. When non-biodegradable implants are used, a follow-up surgery is necessary to remove the implant after the cure. Magnesium-based biodegradable implants, on the other hand, can degrade within the body and avoid the need for a removal surgery.
The head of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cincinnati, William Heineman led the research team comprising of Xuefei Guo and Julia Kuhlmann, graduate students and an undergraduate researcher, Timothy Meyung.
A way to monitor the rate of degradation of a magnesium implant is required, which has led to this study for a miniature sensor. Meyung stated that he has been conducting research on solid-state ion selective electrode designs. The present design included use of carbon nanotubes as ion-to-electron transducers. These hold promise for miniaturizing ion-selective sensors, he added.
To determine the effectiveness of the miniaturized sensors they have to be tested in an in vitro Corrosion Characterization System, which will imitate the human body’s environment. The project has received funds through an Engineering Research Center grant from the National Science Foundation.