But this isn’t just any piece of plastic. It’s an FDA-approved piece of plastic that could one day be a knee replacement capable of releasing medicine to fight off infections in someone’s leg.
The driving force behind this project are the thousands of patients who rely on medical technology to replace their aging joints, but succumb to additional surgery to treat post-op infections.
This tedious process — in which a patient’s new joint is removed and temporarily replaced with a bone cement that’s loaded with antibiotics — is one that can be improved, according to Dr. Schivakumar Ranganathan, an assistant professor at Rowan University.
Back at his lab in Rowan Hall in Glassboro, Dr. Ranganathan holds up a traditional knee replacement piece.
Since last summer, Ranganathan and his team — consisting of Jill Sharkey, a member of Rowan University’s class of 2017, and Ridwan Murshed, a Rowan grad student from Bangladesh — have been working to develop new pieces that would administer controlled antibiotics into the body and prevent the need to open up patients a second or third time.
Thanks to a $50,000 innovation grant from the New Jersey Health Foundation (NJHF) and The Nicholson Foundation, the team has been using a 3D printer in the lab to develop the replacement pieces using natural materials that are biocompatible.
Depending on the intricacy of the parts being printed, the pieces can take anywhere from five to 16 hours to print. Although the process is slow, the pieces are being made with a built-in drug delivery system that can be tailored to each patients needs.
The team is collaborating closely with Dr. Tae Won Kim, a practicing orthopedic surgeon and instructor of orthopedics at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
For Stulpin’s full story, click here.