DSM Biomedical develops polymer platform for artificial hips and knees

9 October 2009

DSM Biomedical has developed a new polyethylene polymer platform intended to improve the mechanical properties and long-term stability of hip and knee implants.

In 2007, DSM Biomedical commenced an R&D program focused on improving ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) use in artificial joints. Although UHMWPE has been used for more than 45 years in artificial joints, improvements in the material’s wear resistance are still necessary to help avoid revision surgeries.

Cross-linking, a technique using high radiation doses, significantly improved wear resistance, but with adverse effects on the polymer’s mechanical properties.

Since the initiation of its UHMWPE R&D program two years ago, DSM Biomedical has now developed an easily cross-linkable UHMWPE. The newly developed polymer platform creates a family of UHMWPE-polymers that incorporate small, highly reactive molecules that can produce the required cross-linking network at significantly lower radiation doses, thereby lessening the adverse effects on the polymer’s mechanical properties and allowing for stronger implants with better long-term stability. DSM Biomedical says it is the first company to apply this technique to UHMWPE.

“Nearly two million people receive artificial hips or knees each year, and the artificial joint market continues to grow in conjunction with trends associated with an aging population and increases in obesity, among others,” said Leo Smit, Business Director for Implants, DSM Biomedical. “We believe that this platform will lead to more stable implants and help reduce the number of revision surgeries needed.”

“The conception and realization of this platform are the result of a significant investment in R&D,” said Steve Hartig, President of DSM Biomedical. “This development underscores our commitment to building a portfolio of biomedical products to help meet both current and future clinical needs in the orthopaedic market.”

DSM Biomedical says it has filed a patent on this polymer platform and its application in total joint arthroplasty. Now that the DSM research team has been able to demonstrate the easily cross-linkable behaviour, the research is currently focusing on the optimization of the mechanical properties of the polymer. DSM Biomedical expects to be working closely with a number of the major orthopaedic companies on the final development of the material.

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