Orthopedic implant failure often results from poor bone adhesion and/or infection. Purdue University recently conducted an in vitro study to determine whether nanotechnology might be used to reduce both of these risks. Purdue scientists compared the adhesive properties of nanoscale versus microscale samples of ZnO and TiO2 to staph cells and osteoblasts (bone-forming cells). ZnO was selected because of its antimicrobial properties and TiO2 was selected because it typically forms on titanium implants in the body. The researchers found that – as compared to their microscale counterparts – nanoscale ZnO and TiO2 led to reduced staph cell adhesion and increased osteoblast adhesion. The implication is that staph is less likely to form on titanium medical implants incorporating nanoscale ZnO, while bone adhesion improves at the same time. Obviously this is only a very preliminary study, but it should be of great interest to manufacturers of orthopedic implants. G. Colon, et al., "Increased osteoblast and decreased staphyloccocus epidermidis functions on nanophase ZnO and TiO2," Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 2006;78(3):595-604.
For a hypothetical health and safety related scenario using nanotechnology in this context see “Preparing for Future Health Litigation: The Application of Products Liability Law to Nanotechnology,” Nanotechnology Law & Business, February 2006, www.nanolabweb.com.