Creating implants for bones and joints have already required manufacturers to make use of different materials such as metals, ceramics, and plastics that have provided them varying results. Unfortunately, there is one thing that is common to these implants and that is they easily break down. They have to replace the implants after 10 to 20 years that can only cause trauma and pain to the patients, making it riskier as they get older. These implants are produced in greater quantity of a particular size that will not suit all patients. In this case, modification of the implants is needed or the bones of the patients have to be reshaped for the perfect fitting of the implant that can be very time-consuming.
How 3D Printed Bone Implants Were Created
Bob Pilliar, a professor in the University of Toronto had been looking for a material that they can use as a substitute for synthetic bones. After 20 years of research together with his team, they have finally found the right ingredient and that is Calcium polyphostate. This is a type of mineral that you can find in human bones and Pilliar believed that this is the best material that can be used as a replacement. It is biodegradable and also capable for regrowth because it can easily connect to the existing bone cells of the patients. The only thing that Pilliar and his team needed is to find a way on how they can manufacture the implants accurately as quickly as possible. This is when Mihaela Vlasea, a mechatronics engineer entered the scene.
Bob Pilliar and a 3D printed bone implant. [Image credit: Steve Russell/Toronto Star]
Vlasea had graduated in University of Waterloo
in 2008 and considered to be an expert in 3D printing. Pilliar believed that she was the right person he was looking for. She decided to create her own 3D printer rather than going to a med school. This particular 3D printer can be used in 3D printing bone structure by out of Calcium polyphostate together with channels that will carry the nutrients and permeable surface. It is capable of creating 3D printed implants for bone and joint replacements that can easily be connected to the existing material of the joint, tendon, or bone.
Mihaela Vlasea and her bone implant 3D printer
With the use of ultraviolet rays and a bonding agent, the bone scaffold will be combined with the Calcium polyphostate using the 3D printer. With the structure of the implants, bone cells will have the possibility to grow to make it a real part of the bone. This 3D printed implant is suitable for patients who are suffering from arthritis. The traditional implants were made of metals or plastic because it is not possible for the cartilage to regenerate.
Dr. Rita Kandel who works in Mount Sinai Hospital as a chief pathology and also a laboratory medicine had collaborated with Pilliar and Marc Grynpas, a researcher from the University of Toronto. Kandel is trying to create a joint replacement using Calcium polyphostate while applying 3D printing technology using the 3D printer of Vlasea. She extracted the stem cells from the bone marrow of the patient that will be reprogrammed to young cartilage cells. After a couple of weeks, these cells will mature.
The implant will then be placed in a bioactive material that contains stem cells. After that, they will put the implant to the patient and allow it to grow and heal which is known as biological surfacing. This will prevent the body from rejecting the implant making it an ideal replacement for patients with osteoarthritis.
They have already tested the bone replacement to animals and will continue for the coming years. However, there is still no price point and timetable available for the replacement. The 3D printed implants can be used in repairing damages in the hips, fingers, and knees that will be soon accessible.
Source: Toronto Star