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Scientists use 3D printers to print “bones” with dwelling cells

3D printers could become a staple of the operating room one day after UNSW scientists showed they can print bone-like structures using living cells.

Scientists at UNSW Sydney have developed a ceramic-based ink that may in the future allow surgeons to 3D print pieces of bone with living cells that can be used to repair damaged bone tissue.

Using a 3D printer that uses a special calcium phosphate ink, the scientists developed a new technique known as “Omnidirectional Ceramic Bioprinting in Cell Suspensions” (COBICS) that enables them to print bone-like structures that look like a cure matter of minutes when placed in water.

“While the idea of ​​3D printing bone-like structures is not new, this is the first time that such a material can be made at room temperature with living cells and without harsh chemicals or radiation,” says Dr. Iman Roohani from the School of Chemistry at UNSW.

“This is a unique technology that can create structures that closely mimic bone tissue,” he says.

It could be used in clinical applications where there is a great need for in situ repair of bone defects such as those caused by trauma, cancer, or where a large piece of tissue is resected.

Associate Professor Kristopher Kilian, who shared the breakthrough technology with Dr. Roohani says that the fact that living cells can be part of the 3D printed structure, along with their portability, represents a huge advance over the current state of the art. Art technology.

“Until now, a piece of bone-like material used to repair a patient’s bone tissue must first be taken to a laboratory to make the structures using high-temperature ovens and toxic chemicals,” he says.

“This creates a dry material that is then taken to a clinical setting or laboratory where it is extensively washed and then living cells are added.

“The cool thing about our technology is that you can just extrude it straight to a place where cells are, like a cavity in a patient’s bone,” says Kilian.

“We can go straight into the bone, where there are cells, blood vessels, and fat, and print a bone-like structure that already contains living cells, right in that area.

“There are currently no technologies that can do this directly,” he adds.

In a research report published overnight in Advanced Functional Materials, the authors describe how they developed the special ink in a microgel matrix with living cells.

“The ink uses a setting mechanism through the local nanocrystallization of its components in an aqueous environment and converts the inorganic ink into mechanically interlocking bone apatite nanocrystals,” says Roohani.

“In other words, it forms a structure that is chemically similar to bone building blocks. The ink is formulated so that conversion in a biological environment is fast, non-toxic and only begins when ink is exposed to body fluids that the end user, for example Surgeons, provide adequate hours of work. “

He says that when the ink is combined with a collagen substance that contains living cells, it enables the in situ production of bone-like tissues that can be used for bone tissue applications, disease modeling, drug screening, and the In situ reconstruction of bones and bone may be suitable for osteochondral defects.

There is already great interest from surgeons and medical technology manufacturers. Kilian says that early on, this new bone compression procedure “could open up a whole new way of treating and repairing bone tissue”.

“This advancement is really paving the way for numerous opportunities that we believe could prove transformative if the ink is used to create bones in the laboratory for disease modeling as a bioactive material for dental restoration and bone reconstruction control in a patient, “he explains.

“I imagine a day when a patient in need of a bone graft can go to a clinic where the anatomical structure of their bone is mapped, translated into a 3D printer and printed directly into the cavity with their own cells .

“This has the potential to radically change current practice, reduce patient suffering and ultimately save lives.”

Next, the duo will conduct in vivo tests in animal models to determine whether the living cells in the bone-like constructs will continue to grow after implantation in existing bone tissue.