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June 4, 2020

Heal Print

A "NICE" advance toward developing replacement bone tissues for treating arthritis, bone fractures, dental infections and craniofacial defects.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions


I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

Many of us have had broken bones healed with a simple cast. But some more serious breaks require bone grafts -- where 'non-essential' bone tissue is taken from somewhere like your pelvis, (Sound effect: slight Elvis: thankyouverymuch) and grafted into the damaged area. A 'bone-efied' solution until you realize regular bone grafting means multiple operations, months of pain, ow, and there's only so much extra non-essential bone to go around.

A team at Texas A&M has come up with a 3-D bioprinting 'ink' that could one day mean less invasive, faster healing bone and tissue repair, customized to the patient. A potential alternative for the half million or so Americans a year who may need bone grafts. The team's ink formulation is called, 'NICE' -- nano-engineered ionic-covalent entanglement. Nice. Highly printable. Mechanically strong.

Nice bio-inks carry cells from the patient. Once bioprinted, those cells begin to deposit new proteins in a structure like a scaffold, that over a three-month period calcifies into bone. The method may provide new treatments for arthritis, bone fractures, dental work and craniofacial defects.

The lab has also produced full-scale, cell-friendly reconstructions of ears, blood vessels, cartilage even bone segments.

(Sound effect: office printer sound) Makin' copies.

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