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Printing Bones in 3-D

The technology could be used by dentists and orthopedists to create custom implants that encourage growth of new bone.
December 1, 2011

Researchers at Washington State University tweaked a commercial 3-D printer to create three-dimensional structures made from a bone-like material. When incubated in the lab with immature bone cells, the printed bone helped support growth of a new network of bone cells. Preliminary tests in rats and rabbits also look promising, according to lead scientist Susmita Bose, co-author and professor in WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

Researchers customized a commercial 3-D printer to create scaffolds of a bone-like material. Credit: WSU

It’s possible that doctors will be able to custom order replacement bone tissue in a few years, said Bose, in a release from the university. “If a doctor has a CT scan of a defect, we can convert it to a CAD file and make the scaffold according to the defect,” Bose said.

To create the scaffolds, researchers optimized a commercially available ProMetal 3D printer designed to make metal objects. They also doubled the strength of the main building material, calcium phosphate, by adding silicon and zinc.The research was published in Dental Materials.

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