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3D Printing Bones?



As technology gets better, the overlap between 3D printing and medicine is becoming greater and greater. Here at the Dream It! Do It! Nebraska blog we brought you the story of scientists who were attempting to print human stem cells utilizing 3D printing technology.

Now, scientists are hopeful that they can do something just as incredible: repair bones with 3D printing. According to reports by Fox News, scientists are making the bone replacement by creating a scaffold in the same shape as the bone, and coating it with human stem cells.

The “ink” for the 3D printer–which in this special case is called a 3D bioprinter–is made of polylactic acid and a gel-like substance called alginate. In this setup, the polylactic acid provides the strength of the bone, and the alginate cushions the cells that are coated on later.

The really cool thing about these 3D printed bones? They can be implanted into the body and the scaffold will degrade, but it will be replaced by new, real bone in about three months.

Currently, the technology is only useful for replacing parts of bones, but researchers are hopeful that one day, the application of this method could be widespread in the medical field.

One day, scientists may build fully-functional replacements for bones or organs. The method of printing bones could be widely-available and in use within less than 10 years, an expert told Fox News. The technique could eventually be used to repair complex tissues like the liver or hear.

Awesome? We think so. And we’re really glad to see 3D printing getting the attention it deserves. 

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