Artificial Bones Shaped With 3D Printer

Apr 9, 2014
Jyunichi Oshita, Nikkei Digital Health
Treatment of a bone defect with a made-to-order artificial bone
Treatment of a bone defect with a made-to-order artificial bone
[Click to enlarge image]
A 3D printer and manufacturing equipment for forming artificial bones
A 3D printer and manufacturing equipment for forming artificial bones
[Click to enlarge image]

A Japanese research team developed a technology to form made-to-order artificial bones by using a 3D printer.

The research team, which consists of researchers from Next21 K K, the University of Tokyo and Riken, has already confirmed that the technology is valid and safe for human body. It has also applied for a permission to manufacture and sell artificial bones with PMDA (Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency).

The examination period is expected to be 10 months. And the team is planning to commercialize the technology in 2015.

Because the new technology uses a 3D printer to form artificial bones, it enables to design structures inside a bone and reproduce a shape in units of 0.1mm. Those bones are quickly fused with natural bones, and they change into natural bones (bone replacement) as time passes.

To treat congenital bone defects, acquired bone deformations, bone defects caused by removal of tumor or external injury, etc, bones need to be transplanted to defective areas. In Japan, the patient's own bone is preferentially used. Usually, a bone is surgically extracted from a leg bone or hipbone, and, then, it is shaved into a shape that fits in a defective area in an operating room.

A bone made with this method fuses with a natural bone well. However, it causes a surgical stress. It is difficult to accurately form a bone to recover the patient's appearance. And it can cause a complication due to long surgery time.

On the other hand, there is a method thatforms made-to-order artificial bones by using a machine tool to shave a block of artificial bone sintered in a thermal process. But with this method, fusion with a natural bone becomes difficult. Specifically, artificial bones made with this method tend to be detached, cause inflammation and be exposed from skin.

The new method using a 3D printer enables to overcome those problems. The formation of artificial bone with a 3D printer does not require a thermal process, making it possible to realize biologically active artificial bones. In other words, they are quickly fused with natural bones and transform into natural bones as time passes.