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3D Printing Can Build New Human Bones

It seems as if 3D printing really is one of the wonders of our time, especially taking into account the miracles it can work in the medical field. One of the latest applications of this technology is for regrowing damaged bones. This technique involves the 3D printing of a tissue using live stem cells. 

An example of how this could be used would be in the case of a child with a jaw defect. The biomedical engineer could take an image of the abnormality, input it into a computer and from there print a jawbone replacement which would precisely fill the defect, using the patient’s own cells. It appears that our body tissues are structured at single-cell levels, which means that through the use of 3D printing, cells can be positioned in precise places.

In order to create the replacement bone, the 3D bioprinter builds a scaffold in the shape of the bone which it coats with adult stem cells, which are able to develop into many different types of tissue.  The printer’s “ink” used is a polymer called polylactic acid and alginate, a gel-like substance.  The polylactic acid is what gives the hard, mechanical bone strength and the alginate serves as a cushioning material for the cells. The printed product can then be implanted into the body, where the scaffold will break down and be replaced with new bone in about three months.  

It has been noted that the primary advantage of this technique is that you get something in the exact shape of the defect which you are trying to fix.  A secondary and more far-reaching benefit, is that you can direct exactly where you want the cells to go within the scaffold, which leads to improved blood vessel supply and better bone formation ultimately.

 

Image courtesy of www.highedwebtech.com

 

Britannia

Britannia

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