Edward Hsiao, Associate Professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is using an Organovo 3D printer in an attempt to create 3D printed bone. Hsiao hopes his research could lead to treatments for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP).
The development of 3D printed bone (and other 3D printed body parts) is seen as an important long-term goal for researchers in the fields of medicine and biomedicine. Although it could be a while before anyone creates 3D printed bones that are suitable for immediate human implantation, 3D printing anything that even resembles human bone can lead to important discoveries.
“We are putting cells into the equivalent of an ink,” Hsiao says. “Then we will print the structures with the ink, let the ink dissolve, and leave the cells. The hope is that the cells can then recapitulate the normal developmental process.”
These 3D printed bone structures could prove incredibly important for Hsiao and—more importantly—for FOP patients. The UCSF researcher believes that small sections of the 3D printed bone could be used to test experimental drugs and other treatments that could prevent or diminish the effect of bone deformities. Testing such treatments on live FOP sufferers is hardly an option, since the unknown effects of new treatments could be harmful to human subjects.
Although FOP sufferers and patients needing bone replacement aren’t likely to reap the benefits of Hsiao’s research in the immediate future, the long-term consequences of the associate professor’s work could be staggering.