Custom-made artificial bones for implantation in humans are being printed using 3-D inkjet printers. Researchers at the Tissue Engineering Department at the University of Tokyo Hospital and venture capitalist Next 21 have performed trials on 10 people in the past year and a half.
The resulting artificial bone is lightweight and porous; very similar to the original human bone used as a model. The human trials were done on male and female patients, ranging in age from 10 to 54. The specific bones selected for printing and transplantation are important; facial bones are being targeted because the technique does not produce a structure that is capable of bearing weight and stress like the major bones of the body (like the femur or thigh bone).
However, the new artificial bones created from the alpha-tricalcium phosphate powder and polymer are ten times stronger than earlier implants made from hydroxylapatite, a naturally occurring mineral that is also the main component of natural bone. Researchers hope to make the technology commercially available by 2010.
Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)