A 3-D printed pelvic component of a hip joint replacement, featuring a porous surface that allows for swift bone regeneration (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A 3-D printed pelvic component of a hip joint replacement, featuring a porous surface that allows for swift bone regeneration (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Engineers at Northwestern University have recently produced a synthetic bone material, specifically aimed to treat pediatric patients with bone defects using an innovative 3-D printing system.

Many complications arise during bone implantation surgery, especially for children. Bone used for surgery is typically extracted from other parts of the body in a process known as auto grafting, which may cause pain and other difficulties, such as infection and chronic pain at the site of harvesting. While adult patients possess more surgical options, children have fewer choices since permanent implants require future surgeries as they grow and develop, which may result in extended struggles.

The research team, headed by materials science assistant professor Ramille N. Shah, conducted a study in which they assessed new bone implant material with human stem cells using animal models. The 3-D printed biomaterial consists of hydroxyapatite, a calcium mineral with a hyper-elastic yet porous structure. Such traits not only allow Shah’s bone material to permit blood vessels and cells to enter through the porous surface, but also to mold into the desired shape for a particular patient.

Previous work has highlighted the bone regenerative properties of hydroxyapatite, but there has been limited success with the substance. Shah’s team, however, synthesized bone material with a high concentration of hydroxyapatite (90 percent by weight hydroxyapatite and 10 percent by weight polymer), which maintains the biomaterial’s elasticity.

Unlike traditional bone implants where bone collected from elsewhere in the body must be molded to fit the exact shape of implantation, future surgeries implementing Shah’s findings would use the 3-D printed bone material to personally accommodate and treat the needs of the patient.

Shah envisions hospitals will install 3-D printers to print customizable bone implants, leading to increased efficiency in terms of treating patients. He claims, “The turnaround time for an implant that’s specialized for a customer could be within 24 hours, [which] could change the world of craniofacial and orthopaedic surgery, and improve patient outcomes” (1).

 

References:

(1) Northwestern University. (2016, September 28). Promising biomaterial to build better bones with 3-D printing: 3-D printable ink produces a synthetic bone filler that induces bone regeneration. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160928213732.htm

(2) A. E. Jakus, A. L. Rutz, S. W. Jordan, A. Kannan, S. M. Mitchell, C. Yun, K. D. Koube, S. C. Yoo, H. E. Whiteley, C.-P. Richter, R. D. Galiano, W. K. Hsu, S. R. Stock, E. L. Hsu, R. N. Shah. Hyperelastic “bone”: A highly versatile, growth factor-free, osteoregenerative, scalable, and surgically friendly biomaterial. Science Translational Medicine, 2016; 8 (358): 358ra127 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf7704