Results of a new study made possible by a Recovery Act grant may lead to longer-lasting hip implants.
Scientists had previously believed that naturally occurring proteins in the human body formed a lubricating layer on metal-on-metal hip implants. But a study conducted by an interdisciplinary team of physicians and engineers from the United States and Germany found that, in fact, the layer is composed of graphite carbon, and it works similarly to how a lubricant in a combustion engine does.
It’s still not clear what produces the graphite carbon in the body. But doctors and engineers working at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany are confident that the results of the study, funded by a $670,000 Recovery grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), may lead to longer-lasting hip implants.
“This finding opens new avenues of investigation to help scientists understand how joint implants function, and to develop strategies to make them function better,” said NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz.
Typically, hip implants last 10 years or so. Younger patients tend to need to undergo a second implant surgery when the first wears out so more durable implants would reduce the need for second surgeries.