We all know that the future of regenerative medicine lies in technologies such as 3D bioprinting. The ability to reproduce organs, cartilage, bones, and other soft tissues found within the human body, based on a simple design from a computer model, could have staggering implications for treating a variety of ailments from cancer to heart disease to major trauma.
If you are at all familiar with the pharmaceutical and surgical industries, then you know how much red tape is involved with the introduction of any sort of new drug, procedure, or medical technology. Animal studies and eventually clinical trials on human beings are just a couple of the required steps needed prior to bringing a new product or procedure to market.
While some economists predict that 3D printing may destroy China’s economy as automation replaces the cheap labor that their trading partners rely on, at the same time, China itself is slowly emerging as a 3D printing/bioprinting powerhouse. In fact, just this week major progress was made in China regarding the 3D printing of biodegradable bone scaffolds.
After five years of research and development, scientists at Xi’an Particle Cloud Advanced Materials Technology Co., Ltd. have successfully developed a patented 3D printing process that enables them to fabricate intricate artificial bone structures which are completely biodegradable. According to the company their 3D printer uses the most advanced Filament Free Printing (FFP) techniques to create scaffolds which can then be implanted into the human body to regrow bone from a human’s own cells.
As with any medical procedure, much work is required in order to ensure the safety of putting a foreign 3D printed body inside a human being. This week, Xi’an Particle Cloud has announced that a successful round of animal testing has been accomplished by the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Xijin Hospital in Xi’an, China.
In their studies, researchers first created a defect within the bottom part of the femur of a rabbit. They then 3D printed an artificial bone and implanted that bone to hopefully correct that defect. Within just 48 hours the rabbit’s body had grown new cells on the surface of the artificial bone, suggesting that the printed implant was an exceptional man-made replacement for an actual living bone, allowing for excellent cell adhesion and proliferation.
Although there is still a ways to go before these 3D printed bones are implanted into human beings, these early animal studies suggest that they will be well tolerated and function like researchers had hoped.
According to researchers, the new bone, once approved by regulators, will provide relief to patients who have large bone defects as well as bone nonunions. Estimates for when such a procedure could become available to the general public remain up in the air, but the recent success of the animal studies seems to point to a time frame which is sooner rather than later. We are told that human clinical trials using this 3D printed artificial bone will be completed around May/June this year.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this interesting work being done in China. Discuss in the 3D Printed Bone forum thread on 3DPB.com