Need a Bone Transplant? Just Print One Out!

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Flexibility isn’t often a word we associate with bones, nor should we. But with the advent of a new synthetic osteoregenerative biomaterial in the form of a 3D-printable ink, doctors and patients may someday have a lot more flexibility in performing bone transplants.

Comprised 90% of hydroxyapatite, a calcium mineral that already occurs naturally in human bones, the material is markedly pliable. It was developed at Northwestern University, and the researchers refer to it as “hyperelastic bone” (HB). A biodegradable polymer makes up the remaining 10% of its composition. Research and results were recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In vivo animal testing has shown great promise. The researchers tested HB in subcutaneous implants in mice, posterolateral spinal fusion in rats, and in a calvarial defect case study in a non-human primate. Across the board, they found that it “did not elicit a negative immune response, became vascularized, quickly integrated with surrounding tissues, and rapidly ossified and supported new bone growth without the need for added biological factors.”

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