UBC researcher 3D prints strong, porous artificial bone graft
3D printed bones will give patients the best possible chance for a favourable outcome, as the grafts can be highly customized to meet patient needs.
When it comes to bone fractures and defects, bone grafts are a common treatment. However, they are not always the easiest option, as they require removing bone from one part of the body and integrating it into the site.
A research student from the UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, Hossein Montazerian, has developed an artificial bone design that is both strong and porous for stronger, safer and more effective bone replacements.
Using 3D printing to manufacture the bones will give patients the best possible chance for a favourable outcome, as the grafts can be highly customized to meet patient needs.
Montazerian says human bones are incredibly resilient, but when things go wrong, replacing them can be a painful process, requiring multiple surgeries. That is why finding the best design for artificial bone grafts was crucial.
“When designing artificial bone scaffolds it’s a fine balance between something that is porous enough to mix with natural bone and connective tissue, but at the same time strong enough for patients to lead a normal life,” says Montazerian. “We’ve identified a design that strikes that balance and can be custom built using a 3D printer.”
After analyzing approximately 240 different bone graft designs, Montazerian notes that a few structures really stood out. The best designs were up to 10 times stronger than others and tend to have structures similar to natural bones. This points to increased success over the long term.
Montazerian and his collaborators are already working on the next generation of designs that will use a mix of two or more structures that are both porous and strong.
And although the bone graft designs are in progress, the technology needs to be tested before it can be used clinically. One of the challenges currently is finding the right biomaterial so the body does not reject the implant.
3D printing should enable the fine details required to be integrated into the graft.
“This solution has enormous potential and the next step will be to test how our designs behave in real biological systems,” he says. “I hope to see this kind of technology clinically implemented for real patients in the near future.”
Montazerian’s research was recently published in Science Direct’s Materials & Design.