When orthopedic surgeons repair complex broken bones, they often have to implant a steel rod or plate to stabilize the bones. Once this is done, the surgeon then inserts a special scaffolding, or matrix structure into the area, onto which the bones can regrow. The matrix can also hold growth factors to promote healing.

A group of medical researchers have studied the existing scaffolding system in an effort to improve on the concept. They created a new system that works better in holding the right growth factors in the exact spot where they are needed, improving bone regeneration.

This new scaffolding system consists of tiny 3D-printed hollow blocks, or bricks, onto which bone can regrow. Each block can hold a small amount of growth gel. And because the blocks can be joined together, like Legos®, the proteins needed for a specific area can be precisely placed at that point.

Thousands of configurations can be made from the blocks making it possible to fit into the complex spaces of the human body. The 3D-printed blocks improve healing because they are able to hold different growth stimulants in each brick, introducing the right factor into the exact right spot.

When tested, the researchers found that the new scaffold was three times more effective in blood vessel growth around the bones than when using the traditional scaffolding method. In the future, researchers believe by changing the 3D material used in making the blocks, this system can be used to repair soft tissue as well as hard. Further into the future, they hope to see this approach leading to the making of organs for transplants.

Bone regeneration scaffolding can be made from many materials, some of which are polymeric. The Polymers Technology Center works with customers in processing polymers. We can assist your company with developing new products, new materials, and new processes. Contact us today.