In the rapidly transforming world of medical technology, the best material that was available till now for 3D printed bone implants was titanium, or in certain cases PEEK or PEKK. Of course, other solutions could involve cutting bone from the patient and repositioning it where required. But as far as external implants are concerned, only alloplastic or non-biological materials – say metal, ceramics or plastics – had been successfully tried and tested. These materials when implanted met with varying degrees of success and one surgery in 2012 made headlines worldwide wherein a 3D 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 CT scans and then went one step further: they used complex algorithms to modify the digital jaw bone so that 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 is an innovator in medical technology and a specialist in biomedical ceramic printing, Xilloc is on the verge of licensing and releasing a new technology for bone implants in the European market- it’s 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 this 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.
As Maikel Beerens, CEO at Xilloc, said, “3D Printing of CT-Bone allows us to help even more patients with a tailor-made solution. 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. 3D printing it means that it can 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.