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CSU-developed implant shows promise

New knee joint implant creates self-lubricating surface, lasts longer

8:37 PM, Jun 30, 2012

CSU professor Susan James, left, has developed a new longer-lasting joint implant material that has now been implanted into a London patient and is being sold in Europe.

CSU professor Susan James, left, has developed a new longer-lasting joint implant material that has now been implanted into a London patient and is being sold in Europe. / William A. Cotton / CSU
Written by
Coloradoan staff

The first patient to receive a knee joint implant featuring new, longer-lasting material developed by Colorado State University professor Susan James is showing increased mobility and quick recovery.

The London woman received the implant in January, was out of the hospital the next day and back on a bike within a month.

The material looks like a traditional implant, James said, but traditional materials will feel waxy when wet. Her implant material will feel slimy and slippery, much like “snot,” she said.

The implant is being sold in Europe by BioPoly LLC of Fort Wayne, Ind. The company licensed the patents from CSU Ventures, CSU’s technology transfer office, and is working to commercialize the product in the U.S., James said.

The biologically enhanced implant material is designed to allow active adults to seek joint repair at an earlier age and thus reduce pain sooner.

James said the implant is about the size and shape of a big thumbtack and is implanted arthroscopically. It allows a localized defect in the knee to be repaired easily and prevents damage from worsening.

It’s less invasive and expensive than traditional joint replacement and with almost no recovery time, James said.

Seeing nearly two decades of research and work come to fruition was both exciting and scary, James said.

“It’s very exciting and I’m really proud. At the same time I was scared and nervous,” she said. “Until you put it in a human, all the testing we do in the lab and on animals are imperfect models. There are lots of examples where things worked great in a mouse, pig or rabbit but don’t work the same in humans. So I’m thrilled to hear it’s working so well and relieved her pain.”

The success will enhance CSU’s reputation to show that what begins as fundamental research eventually reaches the clinic, James said.

“This partial resurfacing implant at least puts off a total knee replacement for this patient, which is more expensive and a more difficult recovery.”

“It’s really exciting,” said an elated James. “To relieve someone’s pain is just really cool.”

The first patient to receive the implant said she was in pain crossing her legs, walking up stairs or taking on anything that required her knee to be at an angle, according to an announcement from BioPoly earlier this month.

James has improved wear-resistance over the conventional bearing material commonly used in total joint prostheses resulting from the infusion of a glycosaminoglycan. Glycosaminoglycan, found within the knee and hip joints of the body, lubricates normal joints and reduces frictional forces on contacting surfaces.

The new joint implant material provides a self-lubricating surface, and the end result could be that the patient would have a longer lasting joint implant, reducing the risk for revision surgery.

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