May 4, 2015 | By Alec

While we’ve been seeing a lot of interesting 3D bioprinting innovations passing by over the last year or so, most of these are still years away from human testing. But to our amazement, one of the most promising innovations of the recent months – the 3D printed orthopaedic bone structures from the Chinese company Xi’an Particle Cloud Advanced Materials Technology – is already taking things to the next level. At a forum held last week, Xi’an Particle Cloud unveiled their PCPrinter BCTM 3D Printer, which relied on FFP 3D printing technology to health care specialists and potential investors and manufacturers. They also announced that clinical trials are forthcoming.

In their own words, their PCPrinter is the most advanced 3D bioprinting device on the market today, and as we’ve already seen it in action a few months ago, we can definitely say that its promising. As you might recall, Xi’an Particle Cloud Advanced Materials successfully experimented on a rabbit in March of this year in collaboration with doctors from the military Xijing hospital in Xi’an. During surgery, a 3D printed orthopaedic bone was implanted into the furry little animal called ‘Hope’. For those of you worried about Hope, the rabbit was actually present at the forum and is reportedly in excellent condition.

Hope at the Forum.

Of course we’ve seen a lot of 3D printed bone implants already, but Hope was provided with an implant specifically designed to combat very complicated fractures and orthopaedic defects. There are currently, in short, no safe and effective treatment methods for those kind of problems, though 3D printing technology seems to be the answer. For Xi’an Particle Cloud Advanced Materials develops identical biomimetic artificial bone structures, that share all the physical and chemical characteristics of bone, complete with the pore structures, biocompatibility and the necessary mechanical strength.

The bioprinted bone used in surgery is expected to function exactly like any other in the rabbit’s body, except for one very special quality: it can also be used to encourage bone and tissue regeneration. Indeed, the PCPrinter 3D printer is designed as a tool for encouraging bones to reattach themselves, for making soft tissue biological structures and controlled drug release options. In short, it could be a very useful tool for the entire medical field. It’s no wonder that the audience present at the technology forum were reportedly wowed by the innovative prospects of this machine.

‘This technology uses the world's most original and advanced 3D biomaterial printing technology, which enables the production of precise, customizable and biodegradable bionic artificial bone structures that are perfect for dealing with a patient’s defect size, shape and internal porosity parameters,’ the company CEO Yang Kun explains. ‘The printer is widely used in bone regeneration and soft tissue biological structures and controlled drug release and other materials. It is therefore perfect equipment for the experts of the life sciences, materials science researchers, for tissue engineering and drug development in internal areas.’ Yang Kun further revealed that clinical trials on humans are expected to follow within just a few weeks.

Implanted 3D printed biodegradable artificial bone

Now this special 3D printing technique has already been named several times, but to explain: Filament Free Printing (or FFP) slightly resembles FDM 3D printing techniques, but instead tackles some of the common problems associated with that technology. Specifically, FDM technology is limited by the technical limitations that filament plastics force onto it, such as high costs, unnecessary waste and the inability to create accurate mixtures of materials. FFP 3D printing avoids these problems by directly extrudes polymer or ceramic particles at a very high precision, instead of first melting filament into printable paste. These particles can be extruded with or without a prior heating stage, and are otherwise extruded in the exact same way as FDM printing methods in a layer-upon-layer fashion after slicing.

While very similar, it instead offers scientists a wide range of composite polymer and biodegradable material options. To 3D print bone structures, mixtures of inorganic materials present in human bones (such as Hydroxyapatite, a natural form of calcium) can simply be mixed with collagen particles and with 5-fold deionized water to become an extrudable ceramic slurry. When heated in an extrusion head, it's a perfect ‘filament’ for 3D printing natural bone structures and was used for Hope.

And as animal testing was so successful, hopes are very high for the clinical trials and the PCPrinter BCTM 3D Printer. Could this be the key to the actual clinical implementation of 3D bioprinting?



Posted in 3D Printers


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Rory wrote at 5/4/2015 6:33:10 PM:

It is Chinese so I bet it won't work, they probably ate poor old 'Hope' the rabbit after for a celebration. That bioprinter also looks like a microwave oven.

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