A Colorado State University mechanical engineering professor is in the first year of a new study to determine whether nanotubes on titanium implants can deliver chemotherapy drugs and antibiotics directly to skeletal implants, limiting the spread of drugs throughout the body and reducing side effects on patients.
Dr. Ketul Popat, who teaches in the School of Biomedical Engineering, which also is affiliated with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, received a three-year, $300,000 grant in 2008 from the National Science Foundation to study nanomedicine - scaling down the size of drug delivery vehicles so that the drugs can directly target tissues with appropriate delivery rates. One of the first papers on the study appeared in the January issue of Nanotechnology magazine.
Colorado's Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Program, which aims to foster development of the bioscience industry in the state, also recently approved a grant of $57,000 for the research. Dr. Popat and his four students are investigating whether tiny tubes of titanium adhered to an implant can be used to deliver drugs as well as increase bone growth on the implant surface.
"We hope these nanotube arrays will mimic the complex geometries of natural tissue and will provide a porous mesh for the growth and maintenance of healthy cells," Dr. Popat said.
Dr. Popat said his team has hypothesized that applying nanotubes to the implant surface will result in increased cell growth. This cell growth on the implant surface will enhance the bond between the titanium implant and the bone, helping implants last longer. Typically, implants must be replaced every eight to 10 years. However, by applying these nanotubes to the implant, they may become stable inside the body, delaying or preventing further complicated surgeries for patients.
"Ultimately, if this kind of drug delivery system is found to be successful, it's going to improve the quality of life for people," Dr. Popat said. "Chemotherapy delivers up to 60 times more drugs than what is needed. We could release the drug for shorter or longer periods of time and keep the drug targeted to the tissue where is it needed."