Dutch Company Develops 3-D Printed Bone Implants
In the rapidly transforming world of medical technology, the best material available until now for 3-D-printed bone implants was titanium, or in certain cases polyetheretherketone or polyetherketoneketone. Other solutions have involved cutting bone from the patient and repositioning it where required. But for external implants, only alloplastic or non-biological materials –- metal, ceramics or plastics –- have been successfully tried and tested.
These materials when implanted have met with varying degrees of success. One particular surgery in 2011 made headlines worldwide when a 3-D printed titanium implant was inserted into the jaw of an 83-year-old woman with oral cancer.
Xilloc Medical, a Dutch medical design company that has pioneered patient-specific implants, had built a printable file for the implant from computed tomography (CT) scans and went one step further: It used complex algorithms to modify the digital jaw bone so blood vessels, nerves, and muscles could grow into the titanium implant once printed, thus allowing the body to integrate the implant to a greater extent than ever before.
Now, Xilloc is pushing the boundaries in skeletal reconstructive surgery once again. Teaming up with Next21, a Japanese company that specializes in biomedical ceramic printing, Xilloc is on the verge of licensing and releasing a new technology for bone implants in the European market. The company’s innovation is called CT-Bone.
The manufacturing of CT-Bone involves printing the designed implant using calcium phosphate, the primary constituent of natural bone. The advantage is that when the material is implanted, the patient’s existing bone fuses with it just as it would with natural bone and unifies in a few months. It’s a bone-like implant that allows bone to grow naturally into it.
“3D Printing of CT-Bone allows us to help even more patients with a tailor-made solution,” said Maikel Beerens, CEO at Xilloc. “After taking a CT scan of the patient, a patient-specific implant is designed by our biomedical engineers in collaboration with the surgeon. This design perfectly fits on the anatomy of the patient, ensuring good bone-to-implant contact and facilitating bony in-growth.”
The material is artificially made, yet integrates with the body just as natural bone would. 3-D printing enables it to be customized to the individual patient and controlled to exhibit the same porosity as natural bone. It dramatically decreases the odds of infection, bodily rejection and interestingly, doesn’t require thermal processes like sintering to increase its mechanical strength.
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