Workshop Explores Path Forward for Biodegradable Metals in Medical Implants

Achievement date: 
2013
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Experts from around the globe convened at White Oak, Maryland, in March 2012 to assess technical challenges and opportunities for advancing revolutionary implantable medical device technology using biodegradable metals. The “think tank” workshop was cosponsored by the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (RMB), headquartered at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; Hannover Medical School in Germany; NSF; and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Impact/benefits: 

This workshop brought together 120 biodegradable metals researchers, clinicians, and regulators to discuss the current state of the technology and collaborative ways to move it forward. Participants concluded that much work remains to achieve significant clinical impact, but that global information-sharing mechanisms, such as follow-on meetings and involvement of the ERC-RMB, will help make biodegradable metal medical devices a reality.

Explanation/Background: 

Biodegradable metal implants have potential in certain types of surgery, including orthopedic, craniofacial, and cardiovascular, because they provide high strength when first implanted then gradually erode in a predictable and biocompatible manner, eliminating the need for surgical removal.

Magnesium (Mg) and Mg alloys, which have been studied in musculoskeletal and cardiovascular applications since 1870, were the principal metals discussed at the workshop, although a case was also made for biodegradable iron. Researchers discussed current projects and Industry representatives shared their experiences in developing implants for a variety of applications. Among the challenges considered were corrosion control, cytotoxicity, alloy design and characterization, and sensor technology.

The field has some distance to go before meaningful testing protocols and standards for biomedical use of Mg and Mg alloys can be established. Participants expressed a desire for an open sharing of data that would help advance the field and looked to the attendees of this workshop to come together again in two years to continue the valuable dialogue.