In this tutorial review we present the process of the development of functional implants using mesoporous silica. The different steps from chemical synthesis and physicochemical characterization followed by in vitro testing in cell culture assays to clinically relevant in vivo animal studies are examined. Since the end of the 1990s, mesoporous silicas have been considered as biomaterials. Numerous investigations have demonstrated their non-toxic and biocompatible properties. These qualities in combination with the unique properties of high surface area and pore volume, uniform and tunable pore sizes and chemical modifiability are the reasons for the great scientific interest in this field. Here we show that besides bulk materials or mesoporous silica nanoparticles, mesoporous silica films are highly promising as coatings on medical prostheses or implants. We report on the development of functionalized mesoporous silica materials specifically for middle ear applications. Middle ear prostheses are used to restore the sound transmission through this air-filled cavity when the small bones of the middle air (the ossicular chain) have been destroyed by disease or by accidents. In addition to optimal restoration of sound transmission, this technique bears several challenges, e.g. an ongoing bacterial infection or the displacement of the prosthesis due to insufficient fixation. To improve the healing process, a mesoporous silica coating was established on ceramic middle ear prostheses, which then served as a base for further functionalizations. For example, the bone growth factor BMP2 was locally attached to the coating in order to improve the fixation of the prosthesis by forming a bony connection to the remainder of the ear bones. Further, an implant-based local drug delivery system for the antibiotic ciprofloxacin was developed with the aim of fighting bacterial infections. Further possibilities using mesoporous silica nanoparticles as part of a composite on an implant are briefly discussed.
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