As the U.S. population ages, an increasing number of people are suffering from age-related bone problems, such as arthritis. Washington State University researchers will be helping to solve that problem, thanks to a $750,000 grant awarded by the W. M. Keck Foundation that will establish a biomedical materials research laboratory.

Researchers in the laboratory, including Amit Bandyopadhyay, Susmita Bose and Howard Hosick, will work to develop biomaterials for use as bone implant materials and structures.

As part of the grant, WSU will become the first academic institution in the U.S. to exploit the Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) technology to develop porous metal-ceramic implants for load bearing applications. Unlike the dense implants now in use, porous implants would allow bone cells and connective tissue to grow into the structure, yielding a stronger bond.

The LENS process uses a laser to create a complex net-shaped metal version of a bone directly from a computer file. The research team hopes eventually to develop an exact replica of a bone based on a patient’s CT or MRI scans.

The Biomedical Materials Research Laboratory will be part of the new Bioengineering Research Center. Intent on increasing successful collaboration among faculty from various disciplines, the College of Engineering and Architecture last year established the center. Its research is focused on musculoskeletal disease and functional restoration, bio-processing and bio-computing.

“By bringing these world-class researchers from different disciplines together, a novel research program has been developed at WSU that allows engineering and science to help address significant societal needs,” said Jim Petersen, vice provost for Research. “This grant ensures that Washington State University will remain a leader in the development of these important technologies.”

The investigators have been working as a team for the past five years. Their work has been recognized with a number of publications and several prestigious awards. Bose last year received a National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award, the highest award given to engineers beginning their careers. Bandyopadhyay has received an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award and a National Science Foundation Career Award.

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering.