Dentistry professor works to create biodegradable bone implant

Lobat Tayebi working in a dentistry lab. Photo by Yue Yin /

Jennifer Walter, Science & Technology Reporter

With funding awarded from the Strategic Innovation Grant, Lobat Tayebi, associate professor and director of research in the School of Dentistry, has been working to create a biodegradable bone implant.

Though others have conducted research in the past to create similar prototypes, Tayebi wants to focus specifically on the design, as opposed to the material, of the implants.

“This proposal is about improving the mechanical property with a specific design,” Tayebi said.

Tayebi said metal implants are the most popular on the market today.

“The problem is with the commercialization (of biodegradable implants),” Tayebi said. “(Patients) cannot trust these kinds of polymers or ceramics which are biodegradable. They still think that these metal implants are more trustworthy.”

Metal implants can cause problems with some patients who have allergic reactions to the material. She said some patients receive a second surgery after the implant is no longer needed.

“The other problems with metal implants is they can be movable,” Tayebi said. “They are not intact with the body. They do not join with the bone.”

While materials in the implants can be adjusted, Tayebi said the rate of degradation of the implants can be programmed by their specific design.

These implants will be 3D-printed and will help patients with cleft palates and other facial reconstructive needs.

“We have lots of challenges in the material part to make sure that the materials are in the robust shape that we want,” Tayebi said.

The project focuses on meeting the needs of those with large bone defects.

“One of the best examples (of a large defect) might be tumors,” lab manager in the School of Dentistry Morteza Rasoulianboroujeni said. “When you remove a tumor, a cavity is left behind (which) you have to fill.”

“When (a defect) becomes large  for example, more than five centimeters  it can be hard to handle,” Tayebi said.

This project is faculty-led, with Tayebi leading and working with Rasoulianboroujeni in the lab.

The team has worked on the project since last summer. They plan to have a finished prototype in about a year. They want to eventually patent their invention, and that could take two to three years or less.

“With good results, it could increase the mechanical property by a hundred times, which is a very huge improvement in biodegradable bone scaffolds,” Tayebi said.