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3-D printer used to make bone-like material

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(Nov. 29, 2011) — It looks like bone. It feels like bone. For the most part, it acts like bone.

And it came off an inkjet printer.

Washington State University researchers have used a 3-D printer to create a bone-like material and structure that can be used in orthopedic procedures, dental work and to deliver medicine for treating osteoporosis. Paired with actual bone, it acts as a scaffold for new bone to grow on and ultimately dissolves with no apparent ill effects.

The authors report on successful in vitro tests in the journal Dental Materials and 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, said Susmita Bose, co-author and professor in WSU's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

"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 of the paper is that the addition of silicon and zinc more than doubled the strength of the main material, calcium phosphate.

The researchers -- who include mechanical and materials engineering Professor Amit Bandyopadhyay, doctoral student Gary Fielding and research assistant Solaiman Tarafder -- also spent a year optimizing 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, about half the width of a human hair. Following a computer's directions, it creates a channeled 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.

The research was funded with a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gary A. Fielding, Amit Bandyopadhyay, Susmita Bose. Effects of silica and zinc oxide doping on mechanical and biological properties of 3D printed tricalcium phosphate tissue engineering scaffolds. Dental Materials, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.dental.2011.09.010

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of or its staff.