The broader impact/commercial potential of this Partnerships for Innovation - Technology Translation (PFI-TT) project is to understand the biodegradation of magnesium (Mg) alloys used in medical implants and to provide a needed diagnostic sensor for post-surgery evaluation of patients. Mg alloys are increasingly used in biodegradable implants for repairing broken bones and other medical applications because they dissolve after the bone is healed, leaving only the natural bone components. Almost 30% of metal implants such as stainless steel must be removed later due to complications or the need to accommodate a still-growing child. The beneficial aspect of using Mg alloys is that a second surgery is not needed, significantly reducing costs of care, surgery risk, and patient stress. Partnering with a technology commercialization expert, this PFI-TT project will enable development, testing, and optimization of the proposed sensor prototype to monitor the biodegradation of Mg-containing implants in both a laboratory and animal setting, promote education in innovation and entrepreneurship, and engage undergraduate and high school students into educational and research programs. This sensor has commercial potential because it fulfills the unmet need in this growing market for a simple diagnostic test for biodegradation progress that is easily performed in a doctorâ€™s office.
The proposed project aims to develop a sensitive, selective and fast-response hydrogen (H2) sensor in the form of a â€œBand-Aidâ€ type device for the non-invasive monitoring of biodegradable Mg-containing implants. Commonly available X-ray technology works poorly for Mg alloys, because the density of Mg is so close to that of bone that the Mg implants cannot be easily distinguished from bone by X-ray. Thus, there is a critical need for a method to monitor the biodegradation of Mg alloys. Measurement of the low level of H2 gas from the slowly dissolving Mg permeating through skin for the purpose of monitoring the biodegradation of Mg implants is completely unique. The objective of this application is to optimize the H2 sensor prototype. The central hypothesis is that the H2 sensor will non-invasively cause a color change when exposed to H2 and provide a visual map of H2 levels over an area above the Mg implant. This hypothesis is formulated based on the supporting preliminary data. The underlying rationale is that the researchers will obtain insight into the overall design of the sensor, which is an essential step toward commercialization of the sensor for non-invasive monitoring of biodegradation of Mg-containing implants in patients.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.