“Broken a bone? Let me print you a new one.” OK, that might not be exactly what a doctor would say in the future, but this really is a 3D-printed bone pictured, and scientists really are hoping to use such structures in patients. The artificial bones, in this case a jawbone, are made from a mixture of pulverised natural bone and special biodegradable plastic, which is then printed as lattices in the desired shapes. Stem cells seeded onto such frameworks develop into bone-like cells with much greater efficiency than if seeded onto the plastic alone. That’s because proteins in the pulverised bone guide the cells to attach and develop correctly. Researchers think such bone printing might be particularly useful for patients with deformed, damaged or missing bones of the face, where creating the right shapes with bone fragments taken from elsewhere in the body is especially difficult.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.