Is anyone working on the 3D printing of bones? Scientists around the globe are working on the latest technology that will help millions of people worldwide. 3D bone printing is an exciting cutting edge medical technology. This additive printing technique has been used to cast molds and now research is being conducted to create scaffoldings for broken or defective bone structures.
A 3D printer takes an image (usually generated by an MRI or CT scan) and software from a computer and creates an exact copy of that image. Bones can be printed directly cell by cell or the scaffolding for bones can be printed, implanted into the body and new cells will grow and in time replace the scaffolding.
How It Works
Bones are basically made up of layer after layer of cells. Those single layers of cells build up over time to create bone. The “mold” or scaffolding is used as a base for new cells to create new bone.
Using a 3D bioprinter to create new bones is done by taking precise measurements of the bone and exact images. Those images and measurements are fed into the computer which sends the message to the printer, which in turn creates a scaffolding for the growth of the new bone.
The “ink” that is used to create the scaffolding is a polylactic acid and alginate. The polyactic acid is hard while the alginate is soft and gel-like and provides a cushion for the human cells. The cells are coated on to the scaffolding (the 3D mold) and it is than transplanted into the body.
If All Goes Well
Testing thus far has shown that as the new cells regenerate the scaffolding will deteriorate. It takes about three months for the new bone to form inside the human body, replacing the scaffolding. The new bone has the exact same makeup as the bones that we are born with. Traces of the alginate and polylactic acid disappear after about 6 months.
Benefits of 3D Printing Bones
Using the scaffold to create replacement bones allows the doctors to create a bone that exactly matches the body. What was once done with titanium rods that had to be fitted by hand essentially can now be done exactly to measurement.
Using human cells to actually grow bone allows for better vascular adhesion and growth. In the very near future people that are born with birth defects will be able to have those defects corrected with new bone structures that are natural and shaped as the natural bone should be. They will no longer have to face years and years of plastic surgery to wind up only with an approximation of what their faces or other body parts should be.
Of course there are so many other applications for this technology. People that suffer from crippling Rheumatoid Arthritis will be able to get relief. New joints like hips, knees and fingers are sure to follow.
Many people that have been in accidents that typically have had to rely on plates and rods will be able to be treated and move forward in life without metal body parts that can cause discomfort down the road.
Recently, doctors have been printing parts of the human skull for patients in need. An 83-year-old lady in the Netherlands has received a new jaw thanks to 3D bioprinting. After years of chronic bone infection, the doctors printed a new jaw which contained textures, cavities and grooves to promote muscle attachment and regrowth of blood vessels and nerves.
Related External Links
http://youtu.be/YJY-QQptXzI – Bone printing for the spine
http://youtu.be/CYSyJB1m6LE – 75% of Patient’s Skull Is a 3D Printed Implant
http://youtu.be/UsEtyhy81nA – 3D Printed Jawbone for Belgian patient (in the Netherlands)