Aug 18, 2017 | By Tess

A researcher from the University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Okanagan campus has been conducting tests to determine which 3D printable structure is best for creating artificial bone implants. Recently, he claimed to have found the most optimal design for both strength and bio-integration.

The person behind the innovative project is Hossein Montazerian, a research assistant from UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. His findings were recently published in the journal Materials & Design.

UBC Okanagan School of Engineering research assistant Hossein Montazerian

In medicine, bone grafting is a process used to treat many bone issues, including fractures and other injuries. In short, it consists of taking a piece of bone from one part of the patient’s body and transplanting it to treat the problem. With 3D printed bone implants, the idea is to remove the need for a transplant altogether, and just use an artificial bone structure.

In making these artificial bones, however, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration, such as strength, biocompatibility, and more.

"When designing artificial bone scaffolds it's a fine balance between something that is porous enough to mix with natural bone and connective tissue, but at the same time strong enough for patients to lead a normal life," said Montazerian. "We've identified a design that strikes that balance and can be custom built using a 3D printer.”

To find the best bone implant structure, Montazerian started with a pool of 240 bone graft designs. After analyzing each one, he selected the designs that could potentially meet both his porosity and strength requirements. He then proceeded to 3D print the top choices and put them through a number of physical tests.

"A few of the structures really stood out," said the researcher. "The best designs were up to 10 times stronger than the others and since they have properties that are much more similar to natural bone, they're less likely to cause problems over the long term."

Montazerian says the artificial bone grafts he is developing and testing could even be customized thanks to advanced design software and 3D printing technology.

If you were to break your leg tomorrow, though, it is not likely you’d be offered a custom 3D printed bone implant, as there is still a lot of work to be done in the field. The 3D printed bone grafts haven’t been tested in a “real biological system” yet. That, says Montazerian, is the next step of the research.

Another stage of the project, which Montazerian and his fellow researchers have already started, is developing new bone graft designs that use a combination of two or more structures.

"We hope to produce bone grafts that will be ultra-porous, where the bone and connective tissues meet and are extra-strong at the points under the most stress,” he explained. “The ultimate goal is to produce a replacement that almost perfectly mimics real bone.”

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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