Joint Implant Material Created at Colorado State University Now Working in Humans

Note to Reporters: Photos of Susan James and the joint implant material are available with the news release at

A new, longer-lasting joint implant material developed by a Colorado State University professor in conjunction with an Indiana company has now been implanted into a London patient and is being sold in Europe.

The biologically enhanced implant material created by Professor Susan James and BioPoly LLC of Fort Wayne, Ind., is designed to allow active adults to seek joint repair at an earlier age and thus reduce their pain sooner. The CSU-related patents were licensed to BioPoly by CSU Ventures, the technology transfer office for the university.

“This success will enhance our reputation to show that what begins as fundamental research eventually reaches the clinic,” said James, now department head of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State and formerly founding director of CSU’s School of Biomedical Engineering. “This partial resurfacing implant at least puts off a total knee replacement for this patient, which is more expensive and a more difficult recovery.

“It’s really exciting,” said an elated James. “To relieve someone’s pain is just really cool.”

The first patient to receive the implant said they were in pain crossing their legs or walking up stairs or taking on anything that required their knee to be at an angle, according to BioPoly’s announcement earlier this month. (For more information, go to Since the surgery, the patient reported that the pain completely disappeared and that they began bicycling four weeks after surgery.

The BioPoly RS Partial Resurfacing Knee Implant used in the patient is the first knee device made from a proprietary biomaterial specifically created for favorable interaction with joint tissues, BioPoly officials said.

At Colorado State, James has spent much of the last 17 years developing the material, which combines polymer science with biomedical engineering to create a new material that may allow human joints to survive much longer than current technology allows.

She developed material that has improved wear-resistance over the conventional bearing material commonly used in total joint prostheses resulting from the infusion of a glycosaminoglycan. Glycosaminoglycan, found within the knee and hip joints of the body, lubricates normal joints and reduces frictional forces on contacting surfaces. The new joint implant material provides a self-lubricating surface, and the end result could be that the patient would have a longer lasting joint implant, reducing the risk for revision surgery.

The BioPoly RS material is made from hyaluronic acid, a glycosaminoglycan, (“Bio”) and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (“Poly”). This combination allows the implants to support anatomical loads and more closely mimic the stiffness and hydrophilic properties of cartilage than other orthopedic materials.

The next step, James said, is developing similar materials for cardiovascular usage such as heart valve leaflets and synthetic vascular grafts, where the “poly” component of the material provides durability while the “bio” component prevents blood clotting or thrombus formation.

Early tests have shown the material James and her team created doesn’t cause blood to clot. She recently received $36,000 to pursue that research from the Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Grant program through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade with matching funds from CSU and Schwartz Biomedical, an Indiana-based orthopedic company, and the parent company of BioPoly LLC.

James credits these public private partnerships and others for the successful implants. Supporting grants have also come from the state of Indiana and a technology business incubator, the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center.

“It really was all of those partners together and a decade of work that got us to the first implant,” James said. “We also educated a bunch of students along the way – undergraduate students helping in the lab and graduate students who did their research on this.”

About BioPoly

BioPoly LLC is an orthopedic implant company located in Fort Wayne, Ind. The company is developing and manufacturing products for use in sports medicine, orthopedics and spinal markets.

About the School of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State

As the first bioengineering program in the state, Colorado State’s School of Biomedical Engineering has offered master’s and doctoral degrees since 2007 and coursework for more than 11 years. Last year, it began the first bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in Colorado. The multidisciplinary school trains students in the development of innovative products to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and also to help improve overall health and patient rehabilitation. The program is a collaboration among four colleges encompassing 50 faculty members from 14 departments: College of Engineering, College of Applied Human Sciences, College of Natural Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering’s faculty and students perform applied research in health, energy and other engineering areas that have global impact. Examples include James’ new medical implant materials and the new thin-film solar panels being manufactured by Abound Solar. Mechanical engineering continues to grow in popularity and is now the fifth largest undergraduate major at CSU. Like James, many of the mechanical engineering faculty are also members of the School of Biomedical Engineering.

About CSU Ventures

CSU Ventures is dedicated to the protection, management and transfer of Colorado State University innovations and intellectual property to the private and public sectors for the benefit of society. With specialized expertise in patenting, licensing and entrepreneurship, CSU Ventures serves as a resource not only to faculty and researchers but also to industry, entrepreneurs and investors seeking to engage with the University.