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British Orthopaedic Research Society (BORS)


Bone related adverse events including failure of implant osseo-integration, periprosthetic fracture, femoral neck narrowing, and unexplained pain occur more frequently following metal-on-metal hip resurfacing (MoMHR) versus total hip arthroplasty (THA). The exact mechanism for the adverse effects is still unclear and may be due to the direct effect on bone cells of metal ions released from the prostheses.

The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of clinically relevant combinations of metal ions on osteoblast cell survival and function. To assess cell proliferation and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity of osteoblasts, human osteoblast cells (SaOS-2), were cultured in 96-well plates for 24-hours and then treated with metal ions. Cell proliferation was measured at day 3 and day 7 using MTS assay, whilst ALP activity was assessed at day 3 by measuring pNPP substrate hydrolysis by the cell lysate. Mineralisation ability of the cells was assessed in 24-well plates cultured until day 21 and staining the calcium deposits using Alizarin red. All cultures were treated with the IC50 concentration of Co(II) (135μM) and an equivalent Cr(III) concentration (1Co(II):1Cr(III)).

After 3 days, Co(II) at an IC50 concentration decreased osteoblast proliferation as expected, but no further decrease in proliferation was observed with the 1Co(II):1Cr(III) combination treatment. However, after 7 days, a further significant decrease (P<0.05) in proliferation was observed with the combination treatment compared to Co(II) IC50. A similar significant decrease (P<0.01) was observed for ALP activity at day 3 with 1Co(II):1Cr(III) compared to Co(II) alone. For mineralization, a significant reduction (P<0.0001) was observed for Co(II) IC50 concentration, however no further reduction was seen with the 1Co(II):1Cr(III) combination treatment.

The observed decrease in cell proliferation and ALP activity with combination treatments suggest an additive detrimental effect compared to single ions alone. The mineralisation ability did not show any additive effect due to cell toxicity of chronic exposure to IC50 concentrations calculated from 3 day proliferation cultures. The results suggest that presence of both cobalt and chromium ions in the periprosthetic environment have more severe detrimental effect on osteoblasts than single ions alone and extend our understanding of the periprosthetic bone health.