Nov 27, 2018 | By Thomas

No current clinical treatments provide an ideal long‐term solution for repair of long bone segment defects. But John A. Szivek, PhD, a scientist at the UA College of Medicine in Tucson, hopes to remedy that problem using cutting-edge technologies. Dr. Szivek has recently received a five-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to launch a study to determine how to heal bone fractures using a combination of 3D printing and adult stem cells.

John Szivek, Ph.D. Credit: Nadia Whitehead / UA College of Medicine - Tucson

"Imagine an impact that causes half of a long bone to shatter so that it can't be put back together," explained  Dr. Szivek, a biomedical engineer and professor of orthopedic surgery. "This is a really big problem for the military, where explosions or combat injuries can cause big bone defects."

With the help of clinical partners in the UA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Dr. Szivek's lab plans to 3D print biomimetic scaffolds that can replace large, missing or broken bone segments. These scaffolds will be filled with calcium particles and adult stem cells, two known agents that lead to much faster healing and bone growth. Once implanted, the scaffold will serve as a template for the bone to grow on.

Close-up of a 3D printed scaffold, a plastic bone-shaped frame that will help replace missing bone. Credit: John Szivek, Ph.D. / UA College of Medicine - Tucson

The results of pilot studies in Dr. Szivek's lab are promising. "We achieved complete bone formation, covering a large bone defect in about three months. Now we want to make that healing process even faster," he said.

The next step is to test whether exercise early in the healing process can help speed up healing and recovery. To test this theory, the 3D printed bone scaffolds will be embedded with tiny sensors that can wirelessly transmit exercise activity. These sensors will analyze loading, or how much weight is being put on the scaffold, and for what length of time.

If the study is successful, Dr. Szivek's team will develop guidelines for post-surgical physical therapy for clinical trials in military personnel.

The human body will attempt to re-grow missing or damaged bone for a few months after an injury, but it eventually gives up on the process. At that point, scar tissue fills the defect instead of bone.

"That's why we need to develop a way to grow bone as quickly as possible - to help the body while it is still able to grow and replace the bone," Dr. Szivek said. He hopes the potential therapy also will help patients with bone cancers that are removed operatively.

This work is supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, Defense Medical Research and Development Program.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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