Aug 6, 2018 | By Thomas

Researchers from New York University have developed 3D-printed ceramic implants that successfully led to bone regrowth in lab animals.

Described in the Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, the implants function as bioactive scaffolds. Surgeons and scientists at NYU School of Medicine and NYU College of Dentistry say their implanted scaffolds were naturally absorbed by the test animals’ bodies as new bone gradually replaced the devices. The research team hopes that the technology will be useful for patients with non-healing bone defects.

“Our 3D scaffold represents the best implant in development because of its ability to regenerate real bone,” study senior investigator and biomedical engineer Paulo Coelho, DDS, PhD, said in a statement. “Our latest study results move us closer to clinical trials and potential bone implants for children living with skull deformations since birth, as well as for veterans seeking to repair damaged limbs.”

The research group claims that the 3D printed ceramic implants closely resemble the shape and composition of real bone, compared with other flexible experimental bone implants where plastic elasticizes are added to make the implant flex. Although the ability to flex offers some advantages, the plastic used does not have the same healing properties as the newly developed scaffold.

The new ceramic devices are made of beta tricalcium phosphate, a compound comprised of the same chemicals found in natural bone that makes the implants resorbable. One of the keys to the rapid growth of native bone is a coating of dipyridamole, a blood thinner shown in other experiments to speed up bone formation by more than 50 per cent. Dipyridamole also attracts bone stem cells, which spur the formation of nourishing blood vessels and bone marrow within the newly grown bone. According to the researchers, these soft tissues give the scaffold-grown bone the same flexibility as natural bone.

“Dipyridamole has proven to be key to the implant’s success,” said study co-investigator Bruce N Cronstein, a professor at NYU School of Medicine. “And because the implant is gradually resorbed, the drug is released a little at a time and locally into the bone, not into the whole body, thereby minimising risks of abnormal bone growth, bleeding, or other side effects.”

So far, the researchers have tested the implants in bone defects in mouse skulls and rabbit limbs. They found that approximately 77% of each scaffold was resorbed by the animals six months after implantation. They also observed that new bone grew into the lattice-like structural supports of the scaffold, which then dissolves. Some CT scans of the implant sites showed almost no trace of beta tricalcium phosphate. Subsequent weight-bearing tests also showed that the new bone was of equivalent strength as original, undamaged bone.

Next, the team plans to test the scaffolds in larger animals. Clinical trials, however, are likely several years away.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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