After four years of work with the departments of chemistry, biology, manufacturing, and materials science, a group of researchers from Washington State University have developed a technology that can create a material that looks, feels, and acts like bone. Such a substance could be extremely beneficial in the fields of orthopedics, cosmetic dentistry, and to aid in the treatment of osteoporosis. When working with real bone, the synthetic acts as a support to assist in the growth of new bone until no longer needed, at which point it simply dissolves away with no ill side effects.
The article, “3-D Printer Makes Bone-Like Material,” found on the Medical News Today website, explains how the technology works. Researchers spent a year tweaking an existing ProMetal 3D printer, which is used to make metal objects. The printer follows a set of directions given by a computer. The inkjet sprays a plastic binder over a coating of powder in layers of 20 microns, which is equivalent to half the width of the average human hair, and creates a cylinder shape of the bone-like material about the size of a pencil eraser.
The researchers reported that they are seeing positive results on initial tests being conducted on subjects, and think that it will be possible that professionals may be able to order custom replacement bone tissue in as little as 3 years. Doctors would only need a CT scan of a defect, and from that scan the custom “bone” can be created. In terms of using this new technology in bone related fields, the possibilities are endless. This new development may end up having a significant impact in many areas, including dentistry.