3DPrinting is adding another notch to making historical medical breakthroughs. A scientist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine along with a $2 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, has launched a study to determine how to heal fractured bones using a combination of 3D printing along with adult stem cells
“Imagine an impact that causes half of a long bone to shatter so that it can't be put back together – no current surgical treatment can ensure that kind of injury will heal,” explained John A. Szivek, Ph.D., a scientist at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. “This is a really big problem for the military, where explosions or combat injuries can cause big bone defects.”
Primarily to help military personnel with extreme injuries, Dr. Szivek plans to 3D print scaffolds which are essentially a bone shaped framework, made from plastic. These scaffolds will then be used to replace large missing bone segments. Then mixing two key ingredients, adult stems cells along with calcium particles, to aid in much faster bone growth and healing.
Then implanted into the patient, this will give the bone a template to grow on.
Pilot studies in Dr. Szivek's lab have shown this technique works well. “We achieved complete bone formation, covering a large bone defect in about three months. Now we want to make that healing process even faster,” he said.
The human body has a hard time filling in large missing bone segments. The body will attempt to grow in missing or damaged bone but after a few months it will eventually give up on the process and then switch to filling in the void or defect with scar tissue.
“That's why we need to develop a way to grow bone as quickly as possible – to help the body while it is still able to grow and replace the bone,” Dr. Szivek said.