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Printed-out dissolving bones, teeth work well in rats

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Scientists have developed a way to make bones and teeth using an inkjet printer. The printed bones are doing well in rats and rabbits and the engineering team at the Washington State University predict that their bony print-outs could be in mainstream use in human medicine in as little as 10 years.

The engineering team led by Professor Susmita Bose adapted a 3D metal printer to the task of bone printing, and used CAD software to design the customised bones.

Bones don't pop out fully formed ready for insertion. Instead, the printer creates a cunning scaffold - a "channelled cylinder" of powder and plastic binder - onto which immature bone cells are layered and then left to grow.

Over a few weeks the bone cells fill out the scaffold to the required shape. After implantation in the body, the scaffold dissolves.

The engineering team have recently discovered that the addition of zinc and silicon to the bone scaffold enables the boffins to create super bones - that have double the strength of the main material calcium phosphate. They published their findings in the journal Dental Materials.

Prof Bose predicts that bone printers will soon be commonplace in hospitals: "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." ®

'Effects of silica and zinc oxide doping on mechanical and biological properties of 3D printed tricalcium phosphate tissue engineering scaffolds' is published in Dental Materials

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