A new scientific breakthrough in the production of three-dimensional synthetic material may revolutionize the way doctors treat broken bones.
A team of scientists at Washington State University have used a 3D printer to create a material that can be added to damaged parts of bones and act as a scaffold on which new bones cells can then grow. Once the bone finishes repairing itself, the material eventually dissolves "with no apparent ill effects," according to a press release from the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.
"If a doctor has a CT scan of a defect, we can convert it to a CAD file and make the scaffold according to the defect," Susmita Bose, study co-author and WSU professor, said in the news release.
A report on the process, in which the study's authors say they have already had success testing the technology on rats and rabbits, will be published in the upcoming edition of the journal Dental Materials.
Interestingly, the actual printer used to create the scaffolds wasn't anything particularly special. According to Medical Daily, the team used a commercially available ProMetal 3D printer for its tests.
The substance itself, which took four years to develop, may be ready for doctors to begin ordering custom bone replacements in as little as a few years, according to the BBC.
The technique is but one of many high-tech human repair technologies to be developed recently. Most notable, perhaps, is a device known as the skin gun, which adds a layer of cells to severe burns by filling in previously damaged tissue. That technology claims to be able to heal burns that would otherwise plague patients for years in just a matter of days.
WATCH: See the video below for an explanation of the 3d bone printing process by Professor Susmita Bose.