People of different ethnicities can be differentiated by visible physical characteristics, but in some cases, people from different parts of the world have physical differences on the inside, as well, and that affects how different patients respond to certain medical treatments. For example, differences have been found between the bone structure of Caucasian people and those of Chinese ethnicity, so a bone implant designed for a Caucasian individual might not be a good fit for a Chinese patient.
It’s well known that 3D printing can be used to design a custom prosthetic or implant for an individual patient, but it’s also being used now to create bone material to match an specific race of people, in this case people of Chinese ethnicity. The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) of Taiwan has used 3D printing to combine metal and composite materials with bionic bone structures to develop bone material specially designed for Chinese people. The material is projected to be on the market by the end of 2018.The specialized material can be completed within 8 to 12 hours, conserving medical resources and providing patients with faster treatment. The bone material includes both metal and ceramic composite materials, and is entirely manufactured in Taiwan, from materials to structure, machinery and patents. Total global bone materials are expected to be a $38.4 billion market in 2017, expected to increase to $43.31 billion in 2020 with a composite growth rate of 3.8%, according to data findings from ITRI’s Industrial Economics and Knowledge (IEK) statistics. In the past, bone materials used for implants were heavy and solid, and they could cause discomfort or even secondary injury when implanted in the body, meaning that they were rarely used except as a last resort. The ITRI-developed 3D printed bone material, however, is lightweight, hydrophilic, and fuses easily with existing bone. It’s porous and hollow and can be used to regenerate natural bone, plus it can be easily customized for personalized treatment. The implants can become part of the body and are easily implanted with minimally invasive surgery.
This isn’t the first time 3D bioprinting has been used to create something particularly for a certain ethnicity – a Chinese cosmetics company called JALA Group used the technology to create skin models that would specifically reproduce Asian skin, which has structural and textural characteristics that make it very particular to certain kinds of cosmetics. It was the first time that skin had been 3D printed from Asian skin cells, meaning that for the first time, companies could accurately test how Asian consumers would react to their products.
3D printed bone designed specifically for Chinese people is an even bigger step, allowing doctors to treat bone injuries and illnesses in an even more targeted way, reducing the risk of complications and the necessity of further surgeries later in life. Whether it’s between individuals or between ethnicities, people have subtle yet highly important differences that make personalized medicine such a critical advancement.
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