At Northwestern University researchers created a new material that can be used as an ink in a 3D printer to create highly accurate mimics of real bones. The investigators tested it by seeding the printed material with human stem cells and implanting it in animal models.
It consists of 90% hydroxyapatite, a mineral form of calcium apatite naturally found in our bones, and 10% biodegradable polymer either polycaprolactone or poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA). Hydroxyapatite has been used in the past for medical applications, but using it exclusively results in very hard and brittle materials. By adding only a small amount of the polymer to the hydroxyapatite resulted in a much more flexible product that is still strong but doesn’t easily crack and shatter.
The synthetic bones are highly porous at all scales, including nano, micro, and macro, allowing living cells to settle in and make a cozy home for themselves, linking together and building larger structures throughout the material. Moreover, because the printing process happens at room temperature, the new ink can integrate drugs such as antibiotics right into the final product.
Study in Science Translational Medicine: Hyperelastic “bone”: A highly versatile, growth factor–free, osteoregenerative, scalable, and surgically friendly biomaterial…