We designed and produced pure cubic zirconia (ZrO2) ceramic1 coatings by an ion beam assisted deposition (IBAD) with nanostructures comparable to the size of proteins. Our ceramic coatings exhibit high hardness and a zero contact angle with serum. In contrast to hydroxyapatite (HA), nano-engineered zirconia films possess excellent adhesion to all orthopaedic materials. Cell adhesion and proliferation experiments were performed with a bona fide mesenchymal stromal cell line (OMA-AD). Our experimental results indicate that the nano-engineered cubic zirconia is superior in supporting growth, adhesion, and proliferation. Since cell attachment is mediated by adhesive proteins such as fibronectin (FN), to elucidate why cells attach more effectively to our nanostructures, we performed a comparative analysis of adsorption energies of FN fragment using quantum mechanical calculations and Monte Carlo (MC) simulation both on smooth and nanostructured surfaces. We have found that a FN fragment adsorbs significantly stronger on the nanostructured surface than on the smooth surface2.
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