A UNL professor is using state-of-the-art technology to create Magnesium screws that degrade inside a person naturally.

He hopes they can someday replace permanent implants.

As a kid, Michael Sealy was tall and a little clumsy.

Two screws were inserted to hold his bone together after fracturing his elbow in the fifth grade.

It healed fine, but the screws remained, often causing him pain and discomfort.

Now as an assistant professor at UNL, Sealy is pioneering a novel approach to a decades–long quest.

"Let's avoid this whole idea of a permanent implant where you may need a secondary repair revision surgery. Let's have one that the surgeon puts in and then slowly over time, it dissolves away," said Sealy.

As it turns out, Sealy's idea requires the state–of–art technology only offered by the University of Nebraska.

UNL owns the first 3D printer in the world that can integrate multiple materials and manufacturing processes while also printing highly reactive metals such as magnesium or titanium.

"We use a laser and it creates very, very small dents, about the diameter of your hair. Putting these dents all into the surface of the implant you are making it harder, you are making it stronger, and you can use that to control how fast these orthopedic implants degrade inside your body," said Sealy.

Magnesium is the perfect material to use for this type of implant, according to Sealy.

It degrades quickly when exposed to oxygen, water and salts and it helps to maintain the structural integrity of bones.

"The end goal is to get it to a point where we no longer have to have permanent implants that remain in people's bodies for the rest of their life," said Sealy.

Sealy can also use different techniques to control how fast or slow the magnesium implants degrade over time.

"Having a degradable magnesium implant itself is super exciting, it is a brand new capability for medical devices. But being able to tweak that degradation rate for different patient populations is taking it to the next level," said Sealy.

Sealy is hopeful that the FDA will approve a magnesium based implant device within the next five years.