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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Hopes for body parts breakthrough
Many artificial body parts need to be replaced
Scientists are hoping they can tackle the problems of artificial body parts wearing out or being outgrown by the patient.

Many man-made body parts such as hip joints can degenerate fairly quickly and they cost the NHS millions of pounds each year to replace.

Researchers at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen are studying ways to improve the compatibility of implant materials with living cells and make them last longer.

Eventually scientists hope to make better materials which will actually fuse and grow with the patient's own bone.

In hip replacement surgery the artificial joint that we currently use only lasts a few years and then it has to be replaced.

Professor Robert Bradley
Team leader Professor Robert Bradley said: "Modern medicine uses a vast range of regenerative and restorative procedures that use man-made devices, such as artificial hearts and hip joints.

"For example, in hip replacement surgery the artificial joint that we currently use only lasts a few years and then it has to be replaced.

"This is distressing for the patients and costly to the NHS.

"We are trying to improve the surfaces of the implant materials so that they grow together with the patient's own bone to reduce wear, making subsequent replacement unnecessary."

The team is using various techniques to control and fully understand the surface properties of the plastics, metals and ceramics used in replacement surgery.

Prominent research team

The scientists are also using plastic films to grow cells that can be harvested and used to repair burn wounds or in surgery such as tumour removal.

The work aims to make the cells "comfortable" on the plastic surface so they will multiply and remain stable and can then be stored until needed.

The university's work received a grant of 840,000 from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and is based in the Advanced Materials Research Centre of RGU's School of Engineering.

Work began last August with a team of about 12, but a number of prominent UK research teams have indicated that they wish to be included in the research.

The project team also includes staff from the department of orthopaedic surgery of Grampian NHS Trust and Aberdeen University.

See also:

25 Jan 01 | Scotland
Surgeons to 'regrow' lost fingers
19 Jun 00 | Scotland
Amputee on 'top of world'
02 Nov 99 | Africa
Help for Sierra Leone amputees
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