Thomas J. Webster, Hebei University of Technology and Saveetha University
Commercializing Nano Implants—Real Human Clinical Evidence of Success in the Spine
Written by Richard Wu
Nanomaterials have shown promise for facilitating tissue growth, resisting infection, reducing inflammation, and killing cancer cells. However, most nanomaterials under scientific investigation have not yet made it to the market as viable commercial products.
Thomas J. Webster, from Hebei University of Technology and Saveetha University, has been designing, testing, and marketing surgical implants that utilize nanomaterial technology. His work has found that orthopedic implants can be treated through various processes to form nanoscale surface textures on the implants. These nanotextures mimic the nanoscale surface texture of bone, and not only reduce inflammation, but also inhibit growth of common infectious bacteria—including S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, and ampicillin-resistant E. coli—without antibiotics.
In rat studies, Webster’s research group found that rats with nanotextured implants had improved surgical recovery with reduced bacterial colonization compared to those in a control group. Subsequent human studies had similar findings—in 14,000 patients who received nanotextured titanium screw implants during orthopedic surgery, none developed screw failure, and in 4,000 patients who received nanotextured silicon nitride orthopedic implants, none developed implant failure. Webster’s findings pave the way for future applications of nanomaterials in biomedical devices.