To produce the artificial bone segments, ACR has adapted a rapid prototyping machine, a device engineers use to quickly make models by building up layer upon layer of material.
The idea is to scan a damaged bone, using either computer aided tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, and generate a 3D computer model of the missing section. This would then be fed into ACR's machine, which can create more precise shapes than most prototypers. This approach is already occasionally used by surgeons, but not to replace load-bearing bones.
A missing bone segment could be created on the spot in the operating theatre, says Tony Mulligan, head of ACR. "Big segments would only take about an hour-and-a-half," he says, a fraction of the time it takes to build up a gap segment. The sections should be strong enough to bear weight without any need for a pin. And within about 18 months, the polymer section would be completely replaced by living bone.
Bad breaks fixed fast by bone 'printer'
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