Hip replacements are becoming more common as people continue to live longer. But the replacements themselves tend not to have much longevity. They frequently last only about 10 years, often failing where the bone replacement connects to the cartilage replacement.
“In our natural bodies, that region works very well,” DeMay said. “We are trying to better mimic how our body actually connects.” DeMay’s goal is to characterize the body’s native tissue in order to understand the details of how the joint works and then use that knowledge to create a biomimetic replacement.
The research group that DeMay is working with—which includes collaborators from mechanical engineering, chemical and biological engineering, and electrical engineering—is experimenting with building a type of scaffolding that would form an infrastructure where bone cells and cartilage cells could regrow and repair the damage in the joint. The team is now experimenting with forming the scaffolding using a gel that can be stiffer in one region, mimicking the bone, and softer in another region, mimicking the cartilage.
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