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AN ISRAELI-INVENTED polymer is being used as surgically implantable joint material..(Photo by: COURTESY PIOTR FLITR)
Material from NASA used for surgical implants at Rambam Medical Center
The first to discover the potential in the material were orthopedists who wanted to adapt it for joint surgery.
For the first time in Israel, a material created for the American space industry has been applied for orthopedic uses at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.

The Israeli start-up, Nahariya-based M.M.A. Tech, developed the innovative substance for use by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in American spacecraft. Now, the material has landed in Rambam’s operating rooms. The new polymer has been adapted for hip joint replacement and is expected to eliminate the need for unnecessary repeat surgeries.

Roxana Smarsky, 48, of Yokne’am, suffers from a disease that caused the head of her femur, or thighbone, to contract. As a result, she was forced to undergo surgery to replace her hip, which was worn and caused severe pain. In an unusual operation at Rambam, the innovative polymer-made ballast developed by an Israeli scientist for NASA was implanted in the patient’s thigh. This is the second surgery performed in Israel using the material, with both implants done under the direction of Prof. Doron Norman.

The Israeli technology was originally designed as a substitute for steel used in ball bearings. The material, whose scientific name is MP1, was developed by Aliza Buchman, the development manager of the Israeli start-up in collaboration with Prof. Rob Bryant of Virginia.

The advanced polymer is self-shielding, has high heat resistance, shows zero wear, is very strong and is lightweight. All this made it ideal for the space industry, but it soon became apparent that the medical world would become an important customer.

The first to discover the potential in the material were orthopedists who wanted to adapt it for joint surgery. About 12 years ago, the first operation on a human was performed using the new substance, as part of a clinical study in New Zealand. Since then, 74 operations have been performed there, with patients showing excellent results.

Three months ago, the material was first used in Israel, when Dr. Daniel Levin, head of the joint service at Rambam performed a hip replacement in a woman in her 60s who suffered a hip fracture. The two operations were successful; within a few days the patients recovered and began to walk and were released.

“The goal is to give our patients the best treatment,” said Levin. “There is an innovation 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. 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. The expectation of the new material is long-term durability and the opportunity for patients to live with a better quality of life.”

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