Liquid Crystal Elastomers for a Dissipative Spinal Disc Replacement Device by Dr. Ross Volpe, Impressio Tech



Liquid Crystal Elastomers for a Dissipative Spinal Disc Replacement Device

Ross Volpe, Ph.D.

Principal Scientist

Impressio Tech

Wednesday, May 19,   Webinar at 6:30 PM Pacific time


Nearly every person over 60 years old experiences degenerative disc disease, a condition characterized by pain due to intervertebral disc deterioration. When surgical treatment is required, spinal fusion has begun to lose attractiveness due to long-term complications. Over the past two decades, motion-sparing disc replacement devices have gained acceptance. A new generation of disc replacements incorporates a viscoelastic polymer core to restore motion to the spine. However, currently available products still do not address short- and long-term issues such as adjacent level disease. Liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) are unique materials that mimic natural tissue and have similar properties to our intervertebral discs: soft, highly dissipative, and mechanically anisotropic. Traditional elastomers cannot achieve this combination of properties. The unique building blocks of LCEs, called mesogens, are rod-shaped molecules that naturally assemble into pockets of oriented domains. We have developed 3D printing and other processing techniques to direct the assembly of mesogens in LCE to enhance its tissue-mimicking properties.

Impressio is developing a disc replacement device with an LCE core to restore functionality to the spine. We have integrated the LCE core with 3D printed titanium endplates and demonstrated a robust connection between the two materials. Recently, we have built prototypes to match the natural disc's compressive, shear, and torsional properties. Using advanced manufacturing, including multiple additive technologies, we accelerate R&D workflows, advancing from concept to prototype in about ten days. We will present our recent findings and outline our next steps to commercialize the LCE disc replacement device.

Speaker Background:

Ross Volpe has degrees in Bioprocess Engineering (BS, SUNY ESF), Biomedical Engineering (MS, CU Anschutz) and Mechanical Engineering (PhD, CU Denver). His research interests have evolved from engineering plastic-producing cells, to using synthetic polymers in orthopedic implants that address clinical challenges. At University of Colorado, he developed materials for 3D printing biomedical devices in collaboration with surgeons, engineers, and material scientists. Now as Principal Scientist at Impressio Tech, he specializes in developing biomaterials for orthopedic and arthroplasty implants. His primary areas of interest are medical device design, commercialization of healthcare technologies, and materials science engineering. Before joining Impressio Tech, Ross has previously worked as a mechanical engineer designing and clearing medical devices through the FDA. Additionally, he has several years of experience at CU Innovations, working with inventors and licensing professionals to enable translational research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

EVENT DATE: Wednesday, May 19

Registration deadline: Monday, May 17, 1:00 PM.

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Webinar Timing: Webinar Time 6:30 PM.

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