Scientists from Shinshu University have developed titanium fibre plates that are safer than conventional titanium plates when used to support broken bones and hold them in place while they heal.

Despite being erosion-resistant and incredibly strong, titanium plates can lead to bone embrittlement once bones are healed as they are significantly more rigid than bones. On the Young’s modulus scale, which is used to measure the stiffness of a solid material, the stiffness of titanium plates is four to ten times higher than that of bone, leading to a weakening of the bone over time as the two are in contact.

Takashi Takizawa, first author of ‘Titanium Fibre Plates for Bone Tissue Repair’, published in the Wiley Online Library, said that “Our titanium fibre plates, unlike conventional titanium plates are prepared by compressing titanium fibre at normal room temperature into plates without changing the fibre shape.

“They can compensate for the major drawback of conventional titanium plates, and find application in a range of fixation and bone tissue repair uses at various sites of the body.”

The titanium fibre plates have a near-identical stiffness rating to bone, according to the Young’s modulus scale. They also have porous elements as the fibres retain their original shape throughout their preparation at room temperature. Takizawa believes that these features mean ‘that titanium fibre plates can be permanently placed without removal surgery.’

The titanium fibre plate was first patented by Noboru Nakayama, an associate professor of engineering at the university, in 2014. With titanium plates used in operations across the body, from hip replacements to hearing aid anchors, improving the safety and efficiency of titanium implants has been an integral part of their development.