Israeli space age material used in pioneering hip, knee replacement

Haifa’s Rambam hospital utilizes polymer developed by Nahariya start-up for NASA to replace bone tip in orthopedic surgery

Dr. Daniel Levin performs innovative hip replacement surgery at Haifa's Rambam hospital on December 10, 2017. (Piotr Felter)
Dr. Daniel Levin performs innovative hip replacement surgery at Haifa's Rambam hospital on December 10, 2017. (Piotr Felter)

As part of a pioneering new treatment, Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center used a material developed in Israel for NASA’s space program in orthopedic surgery, the hospital announced Sunday.

The advanced polymeric material is, according to the developer, “self-shielding, has high heat resistance, zero wear, high strength and light weight, all of which make it ideal for replacing worn joints,” reducing the likelihood of further operations as was the case when using materials that could crack over time.

The material, known as MP1, was originally developed by Aliza Buchman for the Nahariya-based start-up company M.M.A Tech, in collaboration with Rob Bryant of Virginia, US. It was intended to be used as a substitute for steel in the space industry, but the medical world also quickly realized its potential benefit.

The bearing made of the new material used in an operation in Haifa’s Rambam hospital on December 10, 2017. (Piotr Felter)

The first operation on humans using the new material was performed 12 years ago in New Zealand as part of a clinical trial. Three months ago Dr. Daniel Levine, Rambam’s joint service manager and specialist in hip replacement surgery, used MP1 in a hip replacement for a woman in her 60s. Recently it was also used as part of a knee replacement surgery on a 48-year-old woman from Yokne’am Illit.

“The goal is to give our patients the best treatment,” Levine said. “There is a development here that is still in the experimental stage, but on the face of it, it has properties that can give better results than existing materials.”

He explained that other materials used currently wear out quickly, requiring multiple surgeries.

“One of the problems with existing implants is wear and tear. Over time patients will have to undergo repeat surgery and replace the implant due to loosening and cracking,” he said. “The expectation of the new material is long-term durability and the possibility for patients to live with a better quality of life.”

Buchman was proud of the success of her discovery. “Our first recipient has been with the joint for 12 years without pain, and we are certainly encouraged by the results of the additional surgeries,” she said.

Due to the success of this new material, Buchman’s company received a research grant of €1.5 million ($1.8 million) to continue its development.

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