3D-Printed Ceramic Implants Help Regrow Bone

NYU School of Medicine
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Researchers at NYU have developed 3D-printed ceramic implants that dissolves slowly, allowing bone to grow in their place.

The implants can be tailored to mimic the shape of the missing bone, and are chemically-coated to stimulate bone growth. The research team hopes that the technology will be useful for patients with non-healing bone defects.

At present, large non-healing bone defects are difficult to treat. One option is bone grafting, but this involves damaging bone elsewhere, and isn’t always suitable. To address this issue, researchers are developing a variety of implants in the lab that can help to stimulate bone healing. 3D printing is particularly promising for such applications, as it allows researchers to produce patient-specific implants that match the precise size and shape required to fill specific bone defects.

This research group has developed a 3D-printed ceramic implant, and claims that it more closely resembles the shape and composition of real bone, compared with other flexible experimental bone implants. While flexibility is an advantage, many flexible implants contain plastic elasticizers and haven’t shown the same healing abilities to date.

The ceramic implants contain beta tricalcium phosphate, which is similar to components in natural bone, making the implants resorbable over time. They are also coated in dipyridamole, a blood thinning agent that stimulates bone growth and attracts bone stem cells to the implant.

“Dipyridamole has proven to be key to the implant’s success,” said Bruce N. Cronstein, a researcher involved in the study. “And because the implant is gradually resorbed, the drug is released a little at a time and locally into the bone, not into the whole body, thereby minimizing risks of abnormal bone growth, bleeding, or other side effects.”

So far, the researchers have tested the implants in bone defects in mouse skulls and rabbit limbs. They found that approximately 77% of the implant was resorbed by the animals over six months, and that new bone grew into the implant over this period. In some animals, there was almost no trace of the beta tricalcium phosphate in the defects in follow-up CT scans. Impressively, the new bone was as strong as undamaged bone.

“Our 3D scaffold represents the best implant in development because of its ability to regenerate real bone,” said Paulo Coelho, another researcher involved in the study. “Our latest study results move us closer to clinical trials and potential bone implants for children living with skull deformations since birth, as well as for veterans seeking to repair damaged limbs.”

3D-Printed Ceramic Implants Help Regrow Bone

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