Manolis Papastavrou holds bone scaffold that was 3D-printed using materials similar to those in actual bone, which allow it to dissolve as real bone grows around it during a patient's recovery. Photo by Nottingham Trent University
NOTTINGHAM, England, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Scientists in England created a 3D-printed bone scaffold that allows blood flow and cell growth to help the regeneration of natural bone tissue.
The scaffold may allow doctors to construct better materials for bone replacement that break down over time, unlike the metal implants often used by doctors.
Doctors have already used 3D-printing to custom design replacement body parts for patients, such as a patient in Spain who received custom-printed ribs or 14-year-old from the Marshall Islands given a 3D-printed nose.
Scientists said the bone scaffold could be used for patients who have lost a lot of bone during cancer treatment or a catastrophic fracture, and breaks down as new bone grows in its place.
"Using this design strategy could help engineer bone scaffolds, whose porosity does not compromise their strength," said Manolis Papastavrou, a doctoral candidate at Nottingham Trent University, in a press release. "In the long term, this research could contribute to replacing the use of metal in orthopaedic implants with materials that can be broken down by the body."
Papastavrou's research focused on the growth of crystals at sub-zero temperatures, and how using them as part of the 3D-printing process allowed for the structuring of material closer to how molecules are arranged in actual bone, he said.
The 3D lattice, which acts as a scaffold for bone to grow around, can be printed to the exact size and shape a patient needs, and matched to their body's requirements.
"This research is a real step forward as it shows how we can use 3D printing to improve biomaterials without the need for achieving high resolution," said Philip Breedon, a professor at Nottingham Trent University. "By manipulating the growth of crystals in a 3D printed material, we can improve the microstructures of bone scaffolds to make them stronger and may help people who've suffered a major injury or illness make a swifter recovery."