Metals Make Medicine

October 19, 2023

Metals have played a major role in medicine for more than a century.Metals have played a major role in medicine for more than a century, and have been the catalyst for dynamic shifts in the medical field offering safer, more hygienic, and more efficient environments, as well as advancing highly complex procedures. 

Today’s modern surgery centers are surrounded by metal-infused products, and inspired technology truly demonstrates their value in enhancing the human experience.

Biocompatible Metals

Certain metals have biocompatibility and are non-toxic to human tissue and fluids. Other metals retain their unique composition against chemical disinfectants used for sterilization. Medical metals used for implants must be non-magnetic and non-corrosive in addition to being non-toxic.  

Metals Advancing Medicine

Several types of metals and metal alloys are today indispensable in the medical field and have revolutionized medicine and medical procedures. This includes metals that increase surgical safety, enhance human mobility, heal wounds, and in some cases are forging new paths for treating diseases.


Gold is quite possibly one of the very first metals used as part of medical procedures and one of the first metals used in dentistry. It is corrosion-resistant and today is commonly found in plating on wires, conductors, and other micro-electronic components used in sensors and electro-stimulation implants.

3D rendering of gold nanoparticle in the body

More recently, gold nanoparticles have opened an entirely new avenue in bioengineered cancer therapy. This theranostic system is being applied in the field of molecular detection, biological imaging, cancer cell targeting and more. (Source: National Cancer Institute)

*Alaska natural resource. 

Gold is one of the major metals found and mined in Alaska, with more than 700,000 troy ounces mined worth more than $800 million in 2018 alone. (Source: Bureau of Land Management)


Copper is a metal many might label with medical superpowers because of its outstanding antiviral and antibacterial properties. Hospitals use copper for high-touch surfaces like door handles, bed rails, and switches to prevent the transfer and spread of bacteria, germs, and viruses.

*Alaska natural resource. 


Silver, like copper, is naturally antimicrobial. According to the National Library of Medicine, silver dressings promote healing and prevent pathological scarring in patients with burn wounds. Silver dressings also help to reduce wound bioburden and treat local infections. 

Silver is used broadly for stents and non-load-bearing implants, as well as alloyed with zinc or copper to make dental fillings.

*Alaska natural resource. 

Cobalt* Chrome

Cobalt chrome has high wear resistance and the surface can be electropolished to a smooth surface to prevent contamination. It is used for joint replacements, hip and shoulder socket replacements, and dental implants.

*Alaska natural resource.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is durable, non-toxic, non-corrosive/corrosion-resistant, and easily cleaned and sterilized. It is used in many types of medical appliances and medical implants that have become commonplace. Most surgical tools such as forceps, tweezers, suture staples, and other equipment, are made of stainless steel. Certain grades with a high carbon fiber allow it to be heat treated to create sharply edged cutting instruments. (Source: ScienceDirect)

Stainless steel is also used for orthopedic products such as hip and knee replacement joints, and in screws and plates used to stabilize broken bones. Stainless steel mesh is often used for intravascular stents. 


Corrosion-resistant titanium is found in many types of medical appliances and is now a common substitute for stainless steel to make lightweight, yet durable skeletal supports and bone replacements. Titanium is also used in dental implants; it can be metal 3D printed to create customized parts from a patient’s scans and X-rays.


Aluminum is commonly used in support equipment that must be light, strong, and corrosion-resistant such as wheelchairs, walking sticks, and orthopedic supports. 


Platinum is biocompatible and is also an excellent conductor. Thin platinum wires are used for internal electronic implants, such as pacemakers and hearing aids. 


Iridium, or idiom oxide, is used mainly to coat the wiring used for electro-stimulation devices.