Current methods of bone grafting, either by transplanting bone harvested from a human body or implanting ceramic-based bone replacements, are arduously slow procedures. Bioprinting offers a faster solution. Nethelands-based Xilloc (Sittard-Geleen), which is dedicated to the development of patient-specific implants, has partnered with Japanese ceramics specialist Next21 (Tokyo) to bring 3D printing of human bone implants to Europe.
Working in collaboration with a number of academic and research organizations in Japan, Next21 has developed BoneFactory, which provides custom bone models and implants designed for individual anatomies. CT-bone technology, as it is called, involves scanning the part of the patient's anatomy that requires an implant to determine the exact size and shape that is needed, and 3D printing a precisely shaped implant using calcium phosphate, the main constituent of natural bone. This is the technology that Xilloc has licensed for the European market.
Unlike other 3D-printed ceramics, such as hdroxyapatite or Beta-TCP, CT-Bone does not require sintering to increase mechanical strength; the absence of heat treatment also improves bony fusion, says Xilloc. The 3D-printing process enables the production of complex shapes and controlled porosity, similar to natural bone, adds the company.
Xilloc got quite a bit of attention a couple of years ago when it collaborated with researchers in Belgium and the Netherlands to 3D print a jaw for an 83-year-old woman. Doctors had determined that a severe infection necessitated jaw replacement, but that her age and condition made traditional reconstructive surgery too risky.
Xilloc processes a range of implantable materials, including PEEK and titanium alloys. PMMA soon will be in its toolbox, as well.