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As a kid, Michael Sealy was tall. A little clumsy, he says. And he has lasting proof: two metal screws in his left elbow.
The southpaw underwent surgery after tripping and fracturing that elbow in the fifth grade. Surgeons inserted the screws to hold his ulna bone together. The bone healed. The screws remained.
Sealy - Elbow - Weather - Storm - Front
"It starts to hurt," Sealy said of the elbow. "Sometimes it seems to be correlated with cold weather or a storm front moving in. Other times, it hurts—and of course my wife doesn't believe me—when I'm doing chores, like carrying in the jug of milk or lifting clothes out of the washing machine."
Now an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Sealy has mixed business with that displeasure by pioneering a novel approach to a decades-long quest.
Metal - Implants - Let - Time - Let
"Instead of having these permanent metal implants, let's have one that degrades over time," he said. "Let's eliminate this whole idea of a second surgery to have these implants removed."
It's a major challenge for multiple reasons. But the university has equipped Nebraska Engineering with technology commensurate to that challenge: the first 3-D printer in the world that can integrate multiple materials and manufacturing processes while also printing highly reactive metals such as magnesium.
Body - Magnesium - Mineral - Integrity - Bones
In the human body, magnesium is an essential mineral that actually helps maintain the structural integrity of bones. Yet it also degrades quickly when exposed to oxygen, water and salts, all of which are abundant in the body.
That combination of familiarity and reactivity, Sealy said, makes magnesium a prime candidate to become the primary ingredient in dissolvable screws, plates and other medical implants that could eliminate follow-up surgeries or a lifetime of aches during snowstorms.
Magnesium - Rigors - Body - Implant - Sealy
To reinforce magnesium against the rigors of the body long enough to serve as an implant, Sealy began experimenting with a technique called laser shock peening...
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