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article imageDigital driven printer develops bone replacements

By Tim Sandle     Aug 23, 2017 in Science
The University of British Columbia has developed an advanced 3D printer that could provide the future basis of bone replacements. The device has the potential to be used for the generation of artificial bones.
The new device is a further development with the use of bio-printers, where biotechnology becomes combined with the latest innovations in terms of digitally controlled 3D printers. Such technology would be of great benefit to the healthcare and medical sectors.
The new model has been developed by Hossein Montazerian, who works at the university’s School of Engineering. The development relates to the creation of artificial bone grafts. The important functional part of the printer is that these grafts can be custom printed to suit the individual patient. By getting the size right this should reduce the need for a patient to undergo multiple surgeries. Bone grafting is used to treat a range of conditions, from traumatic fractures to defects. Conventional surgery requires a surgeon to move bone from one part of the body to another. The aim of the new technology is to avoid the need to transplant bone, but instead to simply transfer in the artificial bone directly to the required site via surgery.
In communication to Digital Journal, Dr. Montazerian explains: “When designing artificial bone scaffolds it’s a fine balance between something that is porous enough to mix with natural bone and connective tissue, but at the same time strong enough for patients to lead a normal life.”
He goes on to add: “We’ve identified a design that strikes that balance and can be custom built using a 3D printer.” To achieve the breakthrough Dr. Montazerian examined 240 different bone graft designs; from this he selected those that were porous and strong. His produced grafts were then subject to rigorous testing. The test revealed the artificial bones to be as strong a natural bone.
With bio-printing, a liquid mixture of cells, matrix, and nutrients (collectively the ‘bioink’) is placed into a printer cartridge and deposited using the patients' medical scans. Often a scaffold is required to hold the developing structure in place.
The next phase of the research is to determine that the artificial bones can connect to tissues and remain functional when subjected to the day-to-day stresses that the human body endures. It will also be important to ensure that the artificial bones are not rejected by the human body; for this animal models will be required.
The research has been published in the journal Materials & Design. The article is titled “Porous scaffold internal architecture design based on minimal surfaces: A compromise between permeability and elastic properties.”
For more on 3D printing, Digital Journal has further reported on how scientists are racing to make replacement human organs with 3D printers.
More about 3D printing, Bone fractures, Bones, Anatomy
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