Dec 16, 2016 | By Julia

Researchers at the University of Glasgow could soon be growing and shipping customized, 3D printed bones to landmine blast survivors.

Every year, an estimated 4,300 people are injured or killed by landmine blasts, with that number recently reaching the highest it’s been in a decade. But thanks to a £2.8 million funding deal secured earlier this morning with the Find A Better Way charity, established by football legend Sir Bobby Charlton, the Glasgow project is now a huge step closer to aiding victims around the world in their recovery.

Find A Better Way CEO Lou McGrath (left) and founder Sir Bobby Charlton

As part of the regenerative medicine project, University researchers use a 3D printer to create bone scaffolds, which are then coated with intricate layers of stem cells and a growth factor known as BMP-2. The components are then placed in a Nanokick, a specialized machine which rapidly shakes the scaffold to further stimulate the interaction between the stem cells and the growth factor, encouraging the bone tissue to grow at a vastly accelerated rate.

Once completed, it will only take 3 or 4 days to produce bone pieces customized for individual patients’ needs. The bone tissue will continue to grow once implanted in the patient’s body, eventually replacing the scaffold, which then dissolves, leaving the patient only with new bone.

“It is hard to overestimate what an important breakthrough this could be for landmine blast survivors,” said Find A Better Way CEO Lou McGrath. The charity was started in 2011 by footballer Sir Bobby Charlton after visiting Cambodia, where landmines continue to threaten the population after decades of war.

Sir Bobby Charlton visiting a mine clearance site in Cambodia

Whereas earlier methods of trauma surgery relied on amputating victims, advances in regenerative medicine now allow surgeons to retain and reconstruct as much of the limb as possible. Yet the amount of reconstruction available is often hindered by the amount of bone that can be saved from the injury.

“In many cases, the amount of bone that can be recovered is a limiting factor in how much of a leg or arm can be salvaged. With the developments from this project, we could reach a situation where it is only the limitations of surgical techniques, not the amount of viable tissue remaining, that determines the outcome,” McGrath explained.

The Glasgow team, led by Professor Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez, will also be developing sections of “off the shelf” 3D printed bone, which would then be shipped worldwide for a local surgeon to cut and shape to their patient’s specific needs. This type of synthesized bone would be created using the same process, but using shapes and sizes that fit the most common blast injuries. Special packaging is in development that would ensure the bone tissue remains viable for up to three weeks.

The project will initially focus on smaller pieces of bone, but the amount of bone that can be grafted into a blast injury survivor is theoretically unlimited. If successful, the groundbreaking technology will vastly improve the available options for surgeons working with blast injuries, enabling much easier reconstruction of limbs and repair of skull injuries.

The funding package will be officially confirmed on Friday. The project is set to begin in January, with an initial study planned within the next five years.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Alvaro wrote at 12/23/2016 8:39:26 PM:

The amazing Mr. Bobby Charlton! This is a game change that will drive us to a fully limb reconstruction .

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