Biological Impact of Silicon Nitride for Orthopaedic Applications: Role of Particle Size, Surface Composition and Donor Variation

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2018, 8 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2018 The Author(s). The adverse biological impact of orthopaedic wear debris currently limits the long-term safety of human joint replacement devices. We investigated the role of particle size, surface composition and donor variation in influencing the biological impact of silicon nitride as a bioceramic for orthopaedic applications. Silicon nitride particles were compared to the other commonly used orthopaedic biomaterials (e.g. cobalt-chromium and Ti-6Al-4V alloys). A novel biological evaluation platform was developed to simultaneously evaluate cytotoxicity, inflammatory cytokine release, oxidative stress, and genotoxicity potential of particles using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMNCs) from individual human donors. Irrespective of the particle size, silicon nitride did not cause any adverse responses whereas cobalt-chromium wear particles caused donor-dependent cytotoxicity, TNF-α cytokine release, oxidative stress, and DNA damage in PBMNCs after 24 h. Despite being similar in size and morphology, silicon dioxide nanoparticles caused the release of significantly higher levels of TNF-α compared to silicon nitride nanoparticles, suggesting that surface composition influences the inflammatory response in PBMNCs. Ti-6Al-4V wear particles also released significantly elevated levels of TNF-α cytokine in one of the donors. This study demonstrated that silicon nitride is an attractive orthopaedic biomaterial due to its minimal biological impact on human PBMNCs.
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