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University Of Arizona Researchers Study How To Regrow Long Bone Segments Using 3D Printing

By Tom Maxedon
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 9:01am
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 9:28am

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Close-up of a 3D printed scaffold, a plastic bone-shaped frame
John Szivek/UA College of Medicine - Tucson
Close-up of a 3D printed scaffold, a plastic bone-shaped frame that will help replace missing bone.

3D printing is used in a wide range of industries from manufacturing to construction as well as the medical community.

The application is being used by a University of Arizona scientist to print bone segments that monitor recovery in patients.

Treating traumatic bone injuries often requires multiple surgeries, so John Szivek, a scientist in the UA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, hopes 3D printing will change that.

“We can image bone structure using a CT, and the printer will then create an object that is specific to that person," said Szivek.

These plastic bone fragments are then filled with calcium particles and adult stem cells are used to speed bone growth.

Szivek said this step of the research will implant transmitters into the plastic bone segment to monitor exercise activity for recovery. “Those would transmit to your smart phone and alert you if you were over-doing your exercises.”

Szivek said he hopes to move from animal to human trials within the next five years.

The research was funded by a U.S. Department of Defense grant.