Skip to main content

New technique could be the break 3D-printed bones have been waiting for

Bioprinting bone precursors
The dream of 3D-printing bones for use in surgery just got a whole lot more realistic thanks to the work of researchers at the Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research Centre (AMBER) at Trinity College, Dublin. They’ve pioneered a new technique, designed to 3D-print large complex cartilage implants from biomaterials and stem cells to aid with bone regrowth.

“Bioprinting vascularized solid organs such as bone directly is not possibly using existing printing technology,” Professor Daniel Kelly of Trinity College’s School of Engineering told Digital Trends. Kelly is one of the key researchers on the project.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

To address this challenge, Kelly and his team took inspiration from the way in which real bones develop. “Our bones begin life as a simpler cartilage template, which develops into a more complex tissue as we grow,” he continued. “So we have instead used bioprinting technology to fabricate mechanically reinforced cartilage templates in the shape of an adult bone, and demonstrated that these tissues develop into functional bone organs following implantation into the body.”

It’s pretty astonishing stuff, as you can see from the video above, and it offers an alternative to the idea of directly bioprinting a complex tissue or organ. Instead, the work suggests a more promising strategy is bioprinting the developmental precursor using stem cells. “Here the bio-inks are designed to provide an environment that enables the conversion of this precursor tissue into a more complex organ,” Kelly said.

There’s still work to be done before the technique is used to replace current methods of carrying out bone implants, but it’s certainly a development worth getting excited about.

“We see this as a platform technology for treating a range of diseases and injuries to the musculoskeletal system,” Kelly concluded. “We are currently working on developing this technology to bioprint biological implants that could be used to regenerate diseased synovial joints. Such strategies may eventually be used as an alternative to metal and polymer joint replacement prostheses.”

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Need a last-minute Halloween costume? Check out these 3D-printable getups
3D printed Halloween costumes

Still not sure what to dress up as for Halloween this year? Well, instead of frantically scrambling around town looking for the right shop with the right stuff, have you considered 3D printing your Halloween costume? Check out our list of 3D-printable masks and costume pieces to get all geared up for this year's spooking, then fire up that printer.

If you've already finished your costume and want to get started on your scary movie watchlist, we've put together a list of the best horror movies on Netflix.
Squid Game soldier mask

Read more
NASA is testing a 3D printer that uses moon dust to print in space
The Redwire Regolith Print facility suite, consisting of Redwire's Additive Manufacturing Facility, and the print heads, plates and lunar regolith simulant feedstock that launches to the International Space Station.

The Redwire Regolith Print facility suite, consisting of Redwire's Additive Manufacturing Facility and the print heads, plates, and lunar regolith simulant feedstock that launches to the International Space Station. Redwire Space

When a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) this week, it carried a very special piece of equipment from Earth: A 3D printer that uses moon dust to make solid material.

Read more
The best 3D printers under $500
3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500
anycubic photon review 3d printer xxl 2

The 3D printing market has seen quite a few changes over the last few years. In just the span of a decade, the barrier to entry has dropped from well over several thousand dollars to under $200 in some cases. However, all entry and mid-level printers are not made equal. We have a few suggestions for prospective buyers and other information regarding alternatives not found on this list.

To some veterans of the 3D printing scene, this list may seem like it lacks a few of the most commonly recommended printers for newcomers. This is by design. Our list only considers printers with tested components from proven, reliable vendors. That's why we chose the Monoprice MP Mini v2 as our top pick--it's reliable and easy to use. We have avoided any printer with a frame primarily made from interlocking acrylic pieces and anything historically unreliable.
Most bang for your buck: Monoprice MP Mini v2

Read more