3-D Printed Bones
A new ceramic implant could eliminate the need for metal plates and screws in repairing broken bones. Using a mixture of minerals that closely matches the composition of natural bone, the new technique uses 3-D printing to create a scaffold, which eventually turns to real bone as the fracture heals.
Initial testing on rabbits showed complete healing of broken leg bones. In a subsequent study on sheep, the method has also been successful at repairing large leg fractures. After three months, 25 percent of fractures were completely healed, and within one year, 88 percent saw complete healing. This is in spite of the fact that the sheep were walking on the implants immediately following surgery, with stabilizing casts for only four weeks.
X-rays confirmed that the scaffold gradually dissolved as the new bone grew back. There were no toxic side effects, as is often the case with bone grafts. The team is planning to begin human clinical trials with repair of spinal defects and jawbones before moving on to larger fractures such as leg and hip bones. Their hope is to see the new material in clinical use within 10 years.