Titanium dental implants have common clinical applications due to their biocompatibility, biophysical and biochemical characteristics. Although current titanium is thought to be safe and beneficial for patients, there are several indications that it may release toxic metal ions or metal nanoparticles from its alloys into the surrounding environment, which could lead to clinically relevant complications including toxic reactions as well as immune dysfunctions. Hence, an adequate selection and testing of medical biomaterial with outstanding properties are warranted. This study was designed to explore the biocompatibility of smooth titanium-niobium alloy (S_TiNb) versus smooth titanium commercially pure (S_TiCp)—a reference in implantology. All experiments were performed in vitro using human osteoblast-like SaOs-2 and monocyte THP-1 cell lines as models. Cell adhesion and growth morphology were determined by scanning electron microscopy, while cell viability was evaluated using WST-1 assay. Because niobate anions or niobium nanoparticles can be released from implants during biomaterial-cell interaction, potential immunotoxicity of potassium niobate (KNbO3)
salt was evaluated by examining both metabolic activity and transcriptomic profiling of treated THP-1 monocytes. The main findings of this study are that S_TiCp and S_TiNb discs do not show an impact on the proliferation and viability of SaOs-2 cells compared to polystyrene surfaces, whereas a significant decrease in THP-1 cells’ viability and metabolic activity was observed in the presence of S_TiNb discs compared to the control group. However, no significant changes were found neither at the metabolic activity nor at the transcriptomic level of THP-1 monocytes exposed to KNbO3
salt, suggesting that niobium has no effect on the immune system. Overall, these data imply a possible toxicity of S_TiNb discs toward THP-1 cells, which may not be directly related to niobium but perhaps to the manufacturing process of titanium-niobium alloy. Thus, this limitation must be overcome to make titanium alloy an excellent material for medical applications.
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