Traditionally when someone has a broken or missing bone, they have two options to repair the damaged area. The first option consists of harvesting bone from another area of the patient’s body to close the gap; however this procedure is very painful and time consuming. The second option consists of inserting a metal implant into the weakened area, but children quickly outgrow the implant, requiring further replacement surgeries in the future. Currently, scientists from Illinois’ Northwestern University are developing an improved third option; a bone-like material which can be used as a flexible implant in children, removing the need for any additional surgeries.
The research team created a substance consisting of hydroxyapatite (calcium mineral) and a biodegradable polymer already utilized in various medical structures. Since the substance has a similar consistency to ink, it can be used as a medium in a 3D printer in order to create custom-shaped bones, designed specifically for the patient’s needs.
Once printed, the structure retains a hyperplastic consistency, allowing it to stretch and bend with the bone around it. Because of this adaptable trait, the damage or missing bone will stay filled as the child grows, thus eliminating future surgeries. Furthermore, hydroxyapatite has proven to promote bone regeneration, which over time will result in the implants being taken over by real bone growth. Substances, such as antibiotics and growth hormones, can also be added to the substance when printed, for added benefits without altering the structure itself.
As medical devices and materials, similar to the elastic implants, advance overtime, more doctors look to 3D printing for a quick, reliable method of creating custom structures. Eclipse Automation offers the finest in CNC and conventional machining, including 3D printing, to ensure your final product is completed in an efficient, cost effective and timely manner.