Longer lasting joint replacements: helping us stay active longer

Academics: Professor J. Fisher and Professor E. Ingham, Faculties of Engineering and Biological Sciences

Improved healthcare and lifestyles are transforming the life expectancies of British people. According to a study published in The Lancet, about half of the babies born today can expect to celebrate their 100th birthdays. Unfortunately, our joints are wearing at the same rate they always did.

Researchers at the University of Leeds are world leaders in the development of more durable, better designed joint implants to support longer and more active lifestyles. They have delivered better designs that have transformed the lives not only of older people, but of the increasing numbers of active young people who now benefit from these operations.

Our mission is to provide '50 active years after 50'. We are developing interventions capable to sustaining longer, more active lives.

Professor John Fisher, lead researcher, University of Leeds

Better joint replacements

The University and commercial partner Simulation Solutions Ltd created the largest independent simulation laboratory in the world for the pre-clinical testing of artificial implants.

Materials and designs are tested to their limits before they are put into patients and this ability to accurately simulate wear and tear over a lifetime of use has allowed researchers to continuously improve implants—as well as the simulators used to test them. Key innovations have included safer and harder wearing ceramic-on-ceramic hip implants and better designs for polyethylene knees, with hundreds of thousands of patients across the world benefitting from the new technologies. By extending the active lives of joint replacements and reducing the need for revision operations, the impact on patients’ lives has been profound.

Driving industry

The University of Leeds’ innovation in joint implants has provided a significant stimulus for economic activity through a series of partnerships with large and small companies. Simulation Solutions Ltd’s investment in simulation technologies developed with Leeds has helped make it the market leader in joint simulation systems outside North America. A long term partnership with the DePuy Synthes group of companies has led to a series of successful products and ongoing investment in the sector in the UK. In 2013, the University was chosen to host the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s £5.7 Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Medical Devices, a government backed initiative to bring together academics and industrialists to maintain the UK’s leading role in the medical technologies industry.