Anyone who has had the experience of undergoing knee replacement surgery will tell you how long and painful such an operation is. In the near future though, bone replacement surgery may not have to be such a distressing ordeal after scientists from UNSW Sydney figured out how to 3D-print bones, complete with the patient’s living cells, directly into the damaged bone cavity. This new technology would drastically reduce the time it takes to administer the surgery, as well as recovery time and patient suffering.
So, how do they do it? Dr. Iman Roohani from UNSW’s School of Chemistry and Associate Professor Kristopher Kilian developed a revolutionary technique known as ceramic omnidirectional bioprinting in cell-suspensions (COBICS). Using a special ink made up of calcium phosphate, this technique allows them to print bone-like structures that harden in a matter of minutes when placed in water.
The concept of using a 3D-printer to produce substances that mimic bone-like structures isn’t new, however, previous approaches require harsh chemicals or radiation. This new technology can be deployed at room temperature and produces material that contains the patient’s living cells. This means that those cells might be able to form native bone organically. There are presently no technologies that can do this!
Dr. Roohani and Professor Kilian’s research has been received with enthusiasm from surgeons and medical technology manufacturers. Although their research is still in its early stages, the bone-printing process demonstrates the potential to substantially change current practices for the better.
If you want to know more about how the special ink was developed, check out this research paper that was recently published in Advanced Functional Materials.