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.