Researchers in Washington State University have used a 3D printer to create a bone-like material and structure that can act as a scaffold to stimulate new bone to grow on which it is paired with actual bone. The material grows out of a four-year interdisciplinary effort involving chemistry, materials science, biology and manufacturing. This technology can be used in orthopedic procedures, dental work and to deliver medicine for treating osteoporosis.
The researchers - who include mechanical and materials engineering Professor Amit Bandyopadhyay, doctoral student Gary Fielding and research assistant Solaiman Tarafder - optimized a commercially available ProMetal 3D printer designed to make metal objects.
The material came off an inkjet printer which spray a plastic binder over a bed of powder in layers of 20 microns, that is about half the width of a human hair. Following a computer's directions, it creates a channeled cylinder the size of a pencil eraser. After just a week in a medium with immature human bone cells, the scaffold was supporting a network of new bone cells.
"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," said Susmita Bose, a professor in WSU's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and co-author of the WSU study.
The researchers reports a successful experiment in vitro tests in the journal Dental Materials and say they're already seeing promising results with in vivo tests on rats and rabbits. It's possible that doctors will be able to custom order replacement bone tissue in a few years, said Susmita Bose.
The significance of this finding is addition of SiO2 and ZnO dopants to the TCP scaffolds showed increased mechanical strength as well as increased cellular proliferation.
The research was funded with a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
3D printing has already been used in medical industry. Several researchers claim that they can print organs. The American Anthony Atala gives presentations of printing a kidney. UMC Utrecht in Netherland is trying using a 3D printer to print living material repair knees. In the dental example researchers at Columbia University have been testing a method that begins with the formation of an anatomically shaped rat incisor scaffolds that are made by 3D bioprinting using poly-ε-caprolactone and hydroxyapatite.
Professor Bose explains her work and the technology in the following video:
The WSU team's study ("Effects of silica and zinc oxide doping on mechanical and biological properties of 3D printed tricalcium phosphate tissue engineering scaffolds") has been published in the journal Dental Materials.
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