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Counting Sheep

3D Printed Ceramic Implant Fuses With Bone to Repair Broken Limbs

Picture of Tyler Koslow
by Tyler Koslow
Dec 22, 2017

Researchers from the University of Sidney have developed a 3D printed ceramic implant that fuses with natural bone. The implant was successfully used to repair large leg fractures in sheep. 

As most of us know, breaking a bone is never an enjoyable experience, and having a metal plate or screws inserted into the fracture area doesn’t exactly jumpstart the fun. Thankfully, 3D printing technology is making it easier to create patient-specific implants and treat injuries or other debilitating conditions.

Now, a team of researchers from the University of Sydney have developed a ceramic 3D printed implant that naturally fuses with bone to repair broken limbs. That means no metal plates or screws are required.

The project, which is being led by Professor of Biomedical Engineering Hala Zreiqat, has been underway for a few years. After the material was successfully used to heal broken arm bones in rabbits, the team was moved on to a larger and more wooly animal. The researchers recently used the 3D printed ceramic implant to repair large leg fractures in sheep.

Professor Hala Zreiqat, University of Sydney

3D Printed Ceramic Implant Offers Advantages Over Traditional Fracture Treatment

In the latest phase of the study, the eight sheep observed and treated were able to walk with the implants directly after surgery. For the first month, plaster casts were used to help stabilize their legs, but the healing process was surprisingly quick and effective.

According to the researchers, 25 percent of the fractures were healed after three months, while 88 percent were healed after one year. X-rays showed that the ceramic implant actually fused into the bone.

While this breakthrough certainly has implications regarding the use of 3D printed implants in patients, the research is ongoing.

The ultimate aim of the project is to 3D print scaffolds out of a novel bioactive ceramic (known as Sr-HT-Gahnite) that are optimized and strong enough to be used as a bone substitution in spinal fusion.

Dr. Zreigat hopes to prove that this 3D printed implant will match patient-specific needs and improve longterm treatment efficacy. The study involving the sheep has yet to be published, but more details will be shared soon.

This lamb was not involved in the study, but it has a broken limb and is too cute not to share.

License: The text of "3D Printed Ceramic Implant Fuses With Bone to Repair Broken Limbs" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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