Now bone implants can be 3D printed

A US firm comes up with a technology to help prevent multiple joint replacement surgeries

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Thursday 09 May 2019
Now bone implants can be 3D printed
The required piece of tissue can be readied for implantation in three weeks. Photo: Epibone The required piece of tissue can be readied for implantation in three weeks. Photo: Epibone

More than 2.9 million people in the world every year opt for joint replacements. These surgeries see doctors place non-biological materials placed including metals and ceramic being placed in people’s bodies. These artificial body parts eventually disintegrate and leave the patient in need of another or similar surgery. But Epibone, a US-based company, might have found a solution to this.

It has introduced a technology that develops bones using stem cells. “What we’re doing that’s really different than others is that we’re actually able to combine 3D printing with living cells,” Nina Tandon, co-founder of Epibone, told Newsweek.

“Traumatic injury, genetic defects or illness can create conditions which exceed the body’s natural capacity to repair bone. Epibone has developed a proprietary system to grow new bone from the patient’s own stem cells,” she said while talking to the magazine.

The technology involves taking a CT scan (to provide anatomically precise scaffold and 3D culture system) for dimensions that are used to design mould or scaffolding using 3D printing technology. Later, the scientists extract a sample of fat tissue from the patient’s body that is a source of stem cells. The extracted stem cells are then infused into the scaffold. Together the scaffold and the stem cell is incubated in a bioreactor.

This bioreactor mimics the condition of the human body. It maintains the right temperature, oxygen, pH and nutrients. The stem cells then attach to the scaffold, multiply and start forming into osteoblast (a cell that secretes the substance of bone). This remodels the scaffold into a living bone.

In three weeks the required piece of tissue is ready for implantation. When they tested these bones on pigs and other animals, they found that epibone and the host tissue grow seamlessly, together vascularise and become indistinguishable from one another.

Epibone creates living skeletal implants, including bone, cartilage and osteochondral (cartilage under the bone). The company now plans to start human trials that will take another five years, says Tandon.

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