We're already printing organs to order, so why not Cmd+P some customized 3-D bone? Washington State University researchers have tweaked a 3-D rapid prototyper designed to create metal parts to print in a bone-like material that acts as a scaffold for new bone cells. In just a few years, the researchers say, doctors and dentists could be printing up custom bone tissue to order.
Reported in the journal Dental Materials, the bone-like material appears to cause no negative side effects and eventually dissolves. But before doing so, it serves as a scaffold for new bone cells. Placed in a medium of immature human bone cells, the printed structures encourage the growth of new bone that fuses with existing bone tissue.
"If a doctor has a CT scan of a defect, we can convert it to a CAD file and make the scaffold according to the defect," Susmita Bose, co-author and professor in WSU's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, said in a press release.
In terms of potential for regenerative medicine, that's fairly huge. It opens the door to the ability to create perfect--or nearly perfect--replacement implants for damaged or deformed bone tissue and grow new, corrective bone that is the real thing rather than a ceramic or metal analog. And the procedure is relatively fast. Networks of new bone cells reportedly grew within the 3-D printed structures within just a week of placing them in a culture with immature bone cells.