Degradation Behaviour and Biocompatibility of Additively Manufactured Porous Metallic Implants

H. Jahr, P. Pavanram, Y. Li, K. Lietaert, Harrie Weinans, J. Zhou, T. Pufe, A.A. Zadpoor

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractScientific


Biodegradable metals as orthopaedic implant materials receive substantial scientific and clinical interest. Marketed cardiovascular products confirm good biocompatibility of iron. Solid iron biodegrades slowly in vivo and has got supra-physiological mechanical properties as compared to bone and porous implants can be optimized for specific orthopaedic applications. We used Direct Metal Printing (DMP)3 to additively manufacture (AM) scaffolds of pure iron with fine-tuned bone-mimetic mechanical properties and improved degradation behavior to characterize their biocompatibility under static and dynamic 3D culture conditions using a spectrum of different cell types.

Atomized iron powder was used to manufacture scaffolds with a repetitive diamond unit cell design on a ProX DMP 320 (Layerwise/3D Systems, Belgium). Mechanical characterization (Instron machine with a 10kN load cell, ISO 13314: 2011), degradation behavior under static and dynamic conditions (37ºC, 5% CO2 and 20% O2) for up of 28 days, with μCT as well as SEM/energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) (SEM, JSM-IT100, JEOL) monitoring under in vivo-like conditions. Biocompatibility was comprehensively evaluated using a broader spectrum of human cells according to ISO 10993 guidelines, with topographically identical titanium (Ti-6Al-4V, Ti64) specimen as reference. Cytotoxicity was analyzed by two-way ANOVA and post-hoc Tukey's multiple comparisons test (α = 0.05).

By μCT, as-built strut size (420 ± 4 μm) and porosity of 64% ± 0.2% were compared to design values (400 μm and 67%, respectively). After 28 days of biodegradation scaffolds showed a 3.1% weight reduction after cleaning, while pH-values of simulated body fluids (r-SBF) increased from 7.4 to 7.8. Mechanical properties of scaffolds (E = 1600–1800 MPa) were still within the range for trabecular bone, then. At all tested time points, close to 100% biocompatibility was shown with identically designed titanium (Ti64) controls (level 0 cytotoxicity). Iron scaffolds revealed a similar cytotoxicity with L929 cells throughout the study, but MG-63 or HUVEC cells revealed a reduced viability of 75% and 60%, respectively, already after 24h and a further decreased survival rate of 50% and 35% after 72h. Static and dynamic cultures revealed different and cell type-specific cytotoxicity profiles. Quantitative assays were confirmed by semi-quantitative cell staining in direct contact to iron and morphological differences were evident in comparison to Ti64 controls.

This first report confirms that DMP allows accurate control of interconnectivity and topology of iron scaffold structures. While microstructure and chemical composition influence degradation behavior - so does topology and environmental in vitro conditions during degradation. While porous magnesium corrodes too fast to keep pace with bone remodeling rates, our porous and micro-structured design just holds tremendous potential to optimize the degradation speed of iron for application-specific orthopaedic implants. Surprisingly, the biological evaluation of pure iron scaffolds appears to largely depend on the culture model and cell type. Pure iron may not yet be an ideal surface for osteoblast- or endothelial-like cells in static cultures. We are currently studying appropriate coatings and in vivo-like dynamic culture systems to better predict in vivo biocompatibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-31
JournalOrthopaedic Proceedings
Issue numberSupp 6
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventThe Canadian Orthopaedic Association (COA) and The International Combined Orthopaedic Research Societies (ICORS) Meeting - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 1 Jun 20191 Jun 2019


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