Midlands finalist - Morgan Lowther

 

Head, shoulders, knees and microbes: 3D printing better implants

Over 100,000 joint replacement surgeries take place each year in the UK alone, accounting for 1 in 10 hospital admissions. But the prevalence of metallic implants belies that the human body is among the most challenging environments for materials design. Implants often fail not through mechanical means, but biologically, by failing to integrate with native tissues and being colonised by microbes. With the increasing prevalence of antimicrobial resistance predicted to kill more people than cancer by 2050, making previously simply surgeries life threatening, preventing implant associated infection is a necessity.

Conventional approaches have relied on coatings and other secondary processing to modify implants after manufacture. However, in the past decade, advances in metal additive manufacturing (AM) have opened the possibility of radically new approaches to implant design and materials. How might AM simultaneously revolutionise the production of implants, and help mitigate the threat of antimicrobial resistance?

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