Why Keep Your Old Bones, When You Can Have 3D Printed New Ones

Replacement surgery is about to be completely revolutionised!

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© 2017 Flickr - Trace Meek

It is an unfortunate fact that as we get older, so too do our bones. For many people the chronic pain caused by aging joints seriously impacts on the quality of life and overall hapiness. In addition, some people are even more unlucky to be born with degenerative bone conditions, which leave them with the weakness of the elderly at a tragically young age.

Previously, the only solution for people whose bone pain became too much to bear, was replacement bones, often made out of metals like titanium. Now however, this could be all set to change…

A team from China’s prestigious Peking University has been working on a revolutionary new piece of tech which creates 3D printed bones. Using scans of healthy bones and 3D modelling software, their team was able to recreate the shape of a bone using a titanium 3D printer. After first testing their 3D printed bones on sheep, they have since moved to human trials.

"We started clinical trials on 3-D produced implants late last year, and now we have used dozens of such implants in more than 50 patients," said Liu Zhongjun, one of the project’s directors in a press statement. "All the patients recover very well. Nobody seems to have any undesirable side effects or adverse reaction."

On top this success, the Peking University team have recently completed their most ambitious bone replacement yet. A 12 year old boy suffering from cancer within his spinal cord, has had his cancerous vertebrae removed and replaced and replaced with 3D printed titanium ‘bones’. He is expected to make a full recovery.

The advantage these 3D printed ‘bones’ have is that they are much stronger and more capable than traditional implants. While in the past these came only in simple, often geometric shapes, 3D printing allows doctors the ability to perfectly mimic the shape of the original bone. This results in a much lower amount of time needed for the patient to recover from the surgery, and also provides increased durability for the replacement itself.