What seems like a concept straight out of science fiction may become reality soon — bones could be coming to a 3D printer near you.
Back in March, a Chinese company called Xi’an Particle Cloud Advanced Materials Technology Co., Ltd. announced that it had successfully transplanted an artificial, biodegradable 3D-printed bone into a rabbit.
They used a unique 3D printing process called Filament Free Printing, a technique that improves upon current FDM 3D printing technology, which has a hard time creating correct mixtures of chemicals, is expensive, and uses filament plastics as the printer’s ink — which are wasteful.
The FFP style of 3D printing reportedly spits out polymers and ceramics in a highly precise way — using UV light and heat — without having to melt the “ink” into a “printable paste” first. This allows for a broader range of printing materials.
In this way, the company printed an artificial bone with the same complexity, strength, and pore structures that you’d find on a real bone.
When a rabbit got a 3D-printed femoral condyle bone implant, it quickly began to grow new bone cells on the structure.
This success prompted them to plan human clinical trials with their new PCPrinter BCTM 3D printer, which was reportedly scheduled to begin on June, though we’re waiting to hear back from the company on the status of those trials.
If successful, these artificial bones could help replenish bone loss due to invasive forms of cancer and degenerative diseases, and eliminate the need for costly bone grafts that we currently take from a patient’s own body or from cadavers.