Some of us have had the experience ourselves, regretfully, of enduring a trauma resulting in a broken limb which never completely healed. More often, we know others who have been through falls, motorcycle accidents, car wrecks, etc., and while they seemed to get through the healing process, many years later they still have an exaggerated or maybe slight limp—and may even be somewhat or completely debilitated. While it’s heartbreaking enough to see an adult have permanent damage due to bone trauma, it’s doubly so to see such a thing in a child before they have even begun to live fully.
And while bone trauma and injuries that never heal are an issue, so are those regarding patients who are in chronic pain due to recent or past injuries. Unmanageable pain can affect every part of someone’s life as they hope just for a good moment or hour.
Many of us are indignant that we should see anyone suffer from a damaged bone or one that was not allowed to heal properly for whatever reason. With contemporary technology and procedures being used to do the most complex transplants and other surgeries, how hard is it to operate, set, and heal a damaged bone properly–for good? While many of these issues are complex, it’s true—we do possess incredible technology—and 3D printing may be the catalyst behind healing degenerated human bones in the near future.
Research scientists at the Russian National Research Nuclear University may have found the key in the use of animal bones, which can be prepared and used as a substitute via a 3D printed material for missing parts in human bones.
“On the basis of hydroxyapatite, we prepared a liquid material that we can fill a 3D-printer with,” said Professor Vitaly Guzeev. “For instance, a man with a craniocerebral injury undergoes tomography, then the image is sent to the [3D-] printer which recreates an element completely matching the lost bone part. The material indurates during the printing process.”
Currently, stem cells are used in most regenerative medical procedures, but it is an inconsistent, unreliable process that only works fifty percent of the time, according to Professor Guzeev. With the animal bones, made into a material similar to plasticine, researchers are able to create a product called biological hydroxyapatite which is pliable at first, but hardens when placed on top of the human bone that has been damaged.
Acting like a cement on top of the damaged bone, as healing and regeneration take place, the biological hydroxyapatite falls away. In its place, the human bone feasibly will have regenerated its own tissue, having been fooled somewhat due to the biological qualities from the animal bone—which also propel the process of healing.
The use of biological hydroxyapatite for use with bone grafting and in filling cavities due to damage is not entirely new in the research field; however, the complete regenerative process and 3D printing technology being used in Russia is indeed unique. Testing is being conducted both in Moscow and St.Petersburg, with further approvals pending.
“We have created material that the organism takes as original. The bone marrow contains mesenchymal cells that always migrate to the damaged tissue areas. They detect our matter as something that can take part in biochemical processes and start processing it to enable [cell] division. Regeneration is cell division itself. As a result, a new bone tissue is produced with its own blood vessels and nerve cells,” Professor Guzeev explained.
What’s also of great importance and interest with the process is that they may also be able to use it to help patients who have aching joints manage their pain as it may be used as a painkiller injection at the site as well. Both elements of treatment could have big impact on medical science, and there would certainly be a lot of happy patients—long-term.
While we certainly quite often hear about new medical procedures being tested and used on animals, it’s not often that we hear of animal parts actually being used on or in humans. What do you think of this new idea? Would you agree to have this new procedure used on you? Share your thoughts with us in the 3D Printing with Animal Bone Material forum over at 3DPB.com.