The Kansas Bioscience Authority recently awarded a $4 million grant to kick-start these efforts, led by the newly formed Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopedic Research and involving researchers at PSU, K-State, Wichita State and others. Via Christi Health System organized the new center, which they say will create thousands of jobs in the Wichita area.
Steve Robb, director of the Kansas Polymer Research Center, said the goal is to make sturdier yet lighter materials that can be used for any number of medical purposes.
“We use bio-based composites, made by combining other materials,” Robb said. “These will be used either for medical instruments or possibly equipment like operating tables and other things that are in used in hospitals now that are made totally from steel. Eventually they will be made by materials that are lighter in weight but stronger than steel.”
Robb said these bio-based composite materials will prove especially helpful to hospitals treating heavier patients.
“You read about the obesity epidemic in the U.S.,” Robb said. “The patients are getting heavier and heavier, so the materials need to be stronger, and in order to move them around, they need to be lighter with the patients on them.”
Heavier patients are often those also in need of joint replacements – something Robb would like to see tackled one day by KPRC scientists.
“One of the goals of this center is to replace the metal hips and knees with a composite material that would allow the bone to grow into the composite material and form a joint,” Robb said. “Right now there is a barrier between the bone and the steel, and they can cement it in place, but that bond will only last about 15 years.”
For now, Robb said the KPRC is awaiting its first assignment from the Center of Innovation. He expects it to arrive within two or three months.
“The way this works is that they will develop projects in Wichita, and when it’s going to involve composite materials, they will give that assignment to us,” he said. “It’s exciting to think about what we’ll be working on.”
The Kansas Polymer Research Center is one of the world's leading centers specializing in vegetable oil-based polymer research and development. KPRC scientists work with industrial partners, state and federal agencies, and producer associations on developing and commercializing PSU's intellectual property.
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