Bone implantation surgeries are painful and complicated. With the aim to change the constitution of bone implants and to help especially pediatric patients, Ramille Shah, assistant professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, and several researchers have teamed up to develop an ink, which can be used to 3D-print flexible bone implants. By offering a cheap and versatile way of injury treatment, this new material could revolutionize the way implantations are done.

Hyperelastic and Personalized Inked Bones

Shah’s developed hyperelastic bones are made of a synthetic material. It consists of a mixture of hydroxyapatite (a calcium mineral found naturally in human bone) and a biocompatible, biodegradable polymer that is used in many medical applications. Hyperelastic bones, which are highly porous and absorbent can be easily cut, rolled, folded, and pressed into areas missing bone material without glue or stitches. In traditional bone transplant surgeries, the bone – after it is taken from another part of the body – has to be molded and shaped to exactly fit the area where it is going to be implanted. Using the new synthetic material, physicians would be able to 3D print individual products. Considering that, these implants can grow with the growing of the body following and surgeries could be avoided, which can be especially helpful for children.

No Infections through Antibiotics in Hyperelastic Bone Ink

The hyperelastic bone, which can be mixed and 3D-printed at room temperature, was tested in a range of experiments. Scientists placed human stem cells into 3D-printed scaffolds. These had the same structure that might be used as an implant in surgeries. Within a few weeks, the cells not only grew easily on the scaffolds, filling up the available space, but also ended up producing their own bone minerals. But this is not all they have achieved: Shah’s team was also able to incorporate other elements, such as antibiotics, into the ink which could help reducing the possibility of infection after surgery.

Hyperelastic Bone Ink Could Change the World of Craniofacial and Orthopedic Surgery

Shah’s vision is to have 3D-printers providing the hyperelastic bone ink in hospitals, so surgeons can create patient-specific implants within 24 hours. Above all, their synthetic material is ideal for developing countries, because it can be shipped in advance and does not have to be stored in a cold environment.

What do you think? Has 3D-printing the potential to revolutionize bone implantation surgeries? Tell us your opinion in a comment.