3D Printing and the Future of Artificial Bones

Andy Peloquin

Personal Training

Fitness, collagen, bone mass, bone density, functional movement, fitness, Trending

 

Your skeletal structure (bones) performs two primary functions: support and movement. Not only does the rigid bone structure work with your muscles to keep you standing upright, but it's necessary to move in any direction. But what happens when weight-bearing bones are damaged? Your support and movement system no longer works.

 

 

Recently, scientists have been experimenting with creating "functional artificial bone" to replace damaged bones. However, it has been difficult to recreate bones, particularly those responsible for bearing your weight.

 

A new study on 3D biomimetic artificial bone scaffolds for large weight-bearing bone defect repair has undertaken the challenge of creating bone using a 3D printer. Their results proved that there might be hope for the future.

 

Fabrication and Characterization of Artificial Bone Scaffolds

The 3D printing enables bioengineers to control the construction of the porous structure of the bones, using a layer-by-layer deposition guided by the computer. In order to match the unique bone structure, polymers like chitosan, collagen, and polycaprolactone are combined with bioceramic particles, leading to good osteoinduction properties. 3D bone construction must also take into account the blood vessels required to support new bone formation.

 

In this study, bioengineers 3D-printed a biomimetic scaffold, then loaded a thermosensitive hydrogel into the porous scaffold. The bone—which "mimicked both the chemical composition (inorganic/organic materials) and the hierarchical structure (cortical bone/cancellous bone/medullary canal) of natural bones"--was inserted into a rabbit's leg to analyze the results compared to a normal rabbit's bone.

 

The results were fascinating: "as indicated by the in vivo defect repair inspection, the…system could significantly promote bone repair at an early stage and bone graft osseointegration later, showing its potential as an effective substitute for bone autograft."

Simply put, this new 3D bone had a faster healing rate and reduced fracture visibility/weakness than previous models.

How did the patient feel about it? According to the study, "the rabbits in this study did not show obvious discomfort, and no dislocation and deformity in the in situ restoration of tibial defect, which testify that the experimental model of completely segemental bone defect repair and reconstruction is stable and indicate that the HA/PCL artificial bones could potentially promote high patient satisfaction."

 

The 3D printed bones built according to a particular strategy—incorporating structure, anatomy, and function of the recipients—could very well be the way of the future. As the research proved, "with proper design of materials, suitable cytokine induction and individual fabrication technique of artificial bone, efficient bone tissue repair could be achieved without preimplantation cell seeding."

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