Oct 28, 2016 | By Alec

Over the past few months Russia has been making quite a few 3D printing headlines, mostly in the context of metal 3D printing for aerospace and nuclear applications. This surge of Russian 3D printing is being most strongly pushed by researchers from the Tomsk Technical University (who sent a 3D printed microsatellite into space earlier this year), but the National University of Science and Technology (MISIS) from Moscow is not far behind. Researchers from that university have just unveiled a new 3D printed bone implant for skull injuries that is slowly absorbed into the body and replaced with natural bone tissue.

This breakthrough has been realized by a Moscow team led by Fyodor Senatov, joined by specialists from the N.N. Blokhin Russian Cancer Research Center, and represents a major step forward in the field of skull surgeries. Most importantly, it ensures a perfect fit thanks to an ingenious shape-memory shrinking and growing procedures. After being 3D printed at patient-specific parameters, it is contracted to about half its original size. During surgery, the object is heated up and obtains its original shape and size again, ensuring a perfect fit in the patient’s skull or jaw.

As MISIS’s Senatov explained, this is made possible by the material’s specific properties. “We have successfully employed the shape memory effect of the lactic acid polymer – a composite based on polylactide. The porous composite structure is capable of shrinking to half its original size and then returning to its original shape,” he said. This new type of 3D printed implant has a very high porosity as well, and does not require any additional surgical treatments after the initial operation.

That is largely thanks to the fact that this new 3D printable material is fully biocompatible and biodegradable, and will eventually degrade. “This material is bioresorbable: it decomposes in the body without causing any harm,”Senatov noted. In the meantime, the material and its porous structure encourages cell growth, and the cells rapidly replace the degrading material to form complete bone structures over time.

That cell growth concept was developed in collaboration with the cancer specialists form the N.N. Blokhin Russian Cancer Research Center, and relies on a custom cell colonization method using cells taken from a patient’s own bone marrow. “The preliminary colonization stimulates budding of blood vessels and tissues inside the implant, which optimizes the process and increases the rate of integration with the surrounding tissues, making for more effective transplantation,” Senatov explained.

While still under development, the Russian team has already estimated that this cell growth encouraging implant system costs just $400 per patient. While traditional head implants often require subsequent surgeries due to the low tissue integration rate or shifting implant positions, the Russian team argued that this new 3D printed system will greatly improve surgery procedures following significant head and facial injuries. The implant itself is affixed using a number of conventional metal implant screws, and no follow-up procedures should be necessary.

While no concrete clinical trial plans have been revealed yet, the Russian researchers are now planning to apply this technique to oral and maxillofacial surgeries to replace skull bones of up to five cubic centimeters in size.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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