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article image3D printed biomaterial promises better bones

By Tim Sandle     Sep 30, 2016 in Science
A newly formulated biological material, that can be produced via a 3D printer, promises an advancement in medicine by helping to support and to build stronger bones.
Scientists working at Northwestern University have developed a 3D printable ink. The end product, once the additive printing has been completed, is a type of synthetic bone that can be implanted into the body. The implant is capable of inducing bone regeneration and growth.
The primary reason this happens is because the “hyperelastic” material can be created to match the precise shape of any bone within the body. The first application will be for the treatment of bone defects in children.
Several trials are required before the implant is fitted into the first human subjects. Currently bone replacement requires bone to be harvested from another part of the body and then used to replace missing bone. This is a slow, complicated and often painful process. An alternative is the use of metal implants. Metallic implants are more often used with adults, but they are less effective in children because the bones in the body are still growing.
The bio-based plastic was developed by Professor Ramille N. Shah and her research group, who specialize in material science. The material is made from hydroxyapatite (a calcium mineral found naturally in human bone) together with a biocompatible, biodegradable polymer, which has a history of use with several medical applications. The material is robust but it also possesses elastic properties.
A further advantage is that the material is pours, which allows it to integrate with blood cells. It is the high concentration of hydroxyapatite that induces rapid bone regeneration. A further advantage is that antibiotics can be added to the structure, which helps to reduce the risk of postsurgical infection.
The new material has been tested out with human stem cells and experiments have been undertaken using animals.
The experimental findings have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The research paper is titled “Hyperelastic “bone”: A highly versatile, growth factor–free, osteoregenerative, scalable, and surgically friendly biomaterial.”
More about printing bones, Bones, Surgery, 3D printing
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