The mechanical and biological properties of bone implants need to be optimal to form a quick and firm connection with the surrounding environment in load bearing applications. Bone is a connective tissue composed of an organic collagenous matrix, a fine dispersion of reinforcing inorganic (calcium phosphate) nanocrystals, and bone-forming and -degrading cells. These different components have a synergistic and hierarchical structure that renders bone tissue properties unique in terms of hardness, flexibility and regenerative capacity. Metallic and polymeric materials offer mechanical strength and/or resilience that are required to simulate bone tissue in load-bearing applications in terms of maximum load, bending and fatigue strength. Nevertheless, the interaction between devices and the surrounding tissue at the implant interface is essential for success or failure of implants. In that respect, coatings can be applied to facilitate the process of bone healing and obtain a continuous transition from living tissue to the synthetic implant. Compounds that are inspired by inorganic (e.g., hydroxyapatite crystals) or organic (e.g., collagen, extracellular matrix components, enzymes) components of bone tissue, are the most obvious candidates for application as implant coating to improve the performance of bone implants. This review provides an overview of recent trends and strategies in surface engineering that are currently investigated to improve the biological performance of bone implants in terms of functionality and biological efficacy.
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