Scientists invent synthetic bone produced with 3D printable ink

Scientists invent synthetic bone produced with 3D printable ink

The researchers at Northwestern University, led by assistant professor Ramille Shah along with her postdoctoral fellow Adam Jakus, have developed a synthetic “hyperelastic” bone tissue produced with 3D printable ink. This invention was a result of over 100 interviews conducted by the researchers of the University with surgeons who complained of the bone graft material generally used, to be too brittle.

The material invented was able to fuse with new natural bone after being experimented upon rodents and a rhesus macaque. The results were published in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday which says that its strength can enable it to be used in a femur while its flexibility can enable it to squeeze through a small incision.

Though there is a long time for the synthetic bone to be tested on people, if it proves its ability, it could be used in bone fractures, craniofacial procedures, bone fractures, or anterior cruciate ligament (ACR) or rotator cuff injuries. Also, if the material is able to grow with the patient, it could be employed in children as well.

Jakus, with an academic background in explosive materials and metallurgy, says his inspiration of the extrusion process to manufacture goods like bricks, toilets, etc., inspired the team to approach the experiment with the idea of combining materials used in bioengineering along with industry production approaches.

The layers are bound together by the team’s printer by using layer upon layer of a compound composed of a biodegradable polyester and hydroxyapatite.

Since the hyperelastic bone can be printed with a 3D printer, the need to heat the material is not needed, saving it from turning brittle. The body parts can be printed within minutes or hours, the process being fast and viable on a large body, making the manufacture hopefully cheap and feasible enough to be used in hospitals and for the deprived and underprivileged sections of the world. The ink can also be stored for a year.