Washington: An Indian-origin researcher -led team has created a bone-like material and structure using a 3-D printer, which it claims can well be used in orthopaedic procedures, dental work, and to deliver osteoporosis medicine.
Susmita Bose and colleagues at Washington State University says that paired with actual bone, the material acts as a scaffold for new bone to grow on and ultimately dissolves with no apparent ill-effects.
The researchers say they`re already seeing promising results with in-vivo tests on rats and rabbits.
"It`s possible that doctors will be able to custom order replacement bone tissue in a few years. If a doctor has a CT scan of a defect, we can convert it to a CAD file and make the scaffold according to the defect," Bose said.
The material grows out of a four-year interdisciplinary effort involving chemistry, materials science, biology and manufacturing. A main finding is that the addition of silicon and zinc more than doubled the strength of the main material, calcium phosphate.
The researchers also spent a year optimising a commercially available ProMetal 3-D printer designed to make metal objects.
The printer works by having an inkjet spray a plastic binder over a bed of powder in layers of 20 microns, half the width of a human hair. Following a computer`s directions, it creates a channelled cylinder the size of a pencil eraser.
After just a week in a medium with immature human bone cells, the scaffold was supporting a network of new bone cells, revealed the findings published in the latest issue of the `Dental Materials` journal.