New biomaterial offers potential for 3D-printed bone implants

29 September 2016

A new type of biomaterial has been created that could be used in the production of customised 3D-printed bone implants in future.

The 3D printable ink was developed by a Northwestern Engineering research team and can be used to create synthetic hyperelastic bone implants that rapidly induce bone regeneration and growth, while their shape can be easily tailored to meet individual needs.

It consists of a mixture of hydroxyapatite, a calcium mineral found naturally in human bone, and a biocompatible, biodegradable polymer used in medical applications such as sutures. Tests using in vivo animal models have already shown great promise.

The 3D printing process is performed at room temperature, making it possible to incorporate other elements, such as antibiotics, into the ink. This would make it easier to reduce the possibility of infection after surgery.

This approach could be particularly useful in the treatment of bone defects in children, as metallic implants are not a suitable permanent solution for growing patients.

Lead researcher Ramille Shah said: "The turnaround time for an implant that's specialised for a customer could be within 24 hours. That could change the world of craniofacial and orthopaedic surgery and, I hope, will improve patient outcomes."

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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