Want to heal your bones faster? Well, thanks to researchers at Northwestern University, pretty soon you'll be able to 3D print a flexible "scaffolding" to encourage bone growth on and around them.
Okay, taking a breath.
Here we go:
The scaffold is "made up of hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurring mineral that exists in our bones and teeth, and a biocompatible polymer called polycaprolactone, and a solvent. Hydroxyapatite provides strength and offers chemical cues to stem cells to create bone. The polycaprolactone polymer adds flexibility, and the solvent sticks the 3D-printed layers together as it evaporates during printing. The mixture is blended into an ink that is dispensed by the printer, layer by layer, into exact shapes matching the bone that needs to be replaced."
The idea, they continue, is that "a patient would come in with a nasty broken bone—say, a shattered jaw—and instead of going through painful autograft surgeries or waiting for a custom scaffold to be manufactured, he or she could be x-rayed and a 3D-printed hyperelastic bone scaffold could be printed that same day."
Currently the technology is being used to fuse spinal vertebrae in rats, and is performing well. Since you can't use this tech YET, maybe you can 3D print yourself a cast in the meantime:
Read more on the innovation here.