3D printed bone project underway in Glasgow

Issued: Mon, 20 Feb 2017 19:19:00 GMT

Find A Better Way founder Sir Bobby Charlton formally signed a funding agreement with the University of Glasgow on the 16th of December 2016 to officially launch the a research project to generate synthetic bone using 3D printing, nanotechnology, and stem cell research. This benefits from this research have the potential to revolutionize treatment for landmine blast survivors.

Also in attendance for the signing were project leader Professor Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez, deputy project leader Professor Matt Dalby, University of Glasgow Vice-Principal Professor Jon Cooper, Find A Better Way Chairman John Edees, and Find A Better Way CEO Lou McGrath OBE. The signing took place at Booth’s Hall in Knutsford near the Find A Better Way head office.

The University of Glasgow team will be using a 3D printer to create bone scaffolds. These scaffolds are then coated with nanolayers of a growth factor known as BMP-2 and stem cells. They are then placed into a specially designed machine known as a ‘Nanokick,’ invented by Prof. Matt Dalby, which shakes the bone scaffold 15 nanometers, 1,000 times per second (see http://www.nanokick.com for details). This further stimulates the stem cells and growth factor to interact and start growing bone tissue on the scaffold at an accelerated rate. 

When completed, it will be possible within 3-4 days to create bespoke bone pieces to fit the needs of individual patients.  Once implanted in the body, bone tissue will continue to grow, replacing the scaffold which, as it dissolves, leaves only new bone behind.

Parallel to this, the University of Glasgow team will also be developing small blocks of ‘off the shelf’ synthetic bone that can be shipped to anywhere in the world for a local surgeon to cut and shape to a patient’s need.

This product will be created using the same process, but using shapes and sizes that are likely to fit common blast injury needs. Specially designed packaging is being designed that will keep the bone tissue viable for two to three weeks depending on local conditions. 

Although the project will initially concentrate on smaller pieces of bone, there is no theoretical limit to how much synthetic bone can grafted into a blast injury survivor. If successful the new technology will vastly extend the available options for blast injury surgeons, making it easier to reconstruct limbs, repair skull injuries and more. 

Following the signing of the funding agreement, the project began on 1 January 2017 and had its first progress meeting on the 10th of March. It is projected to conduct a ‘first man’ study within five years.

In addition to the glasgow team (additionally comprising Professor Liz Tanner and Dr. Mathis Riehle), the meeting also assembled Professor John Campbell  and Professor Jo Mountford from the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS), Professor Andrew Hart from the Canniesburn Plastic Surgery Unit (NHS Greater Glasgow), Professor Rory Rickard (Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at Plymouth Hospitals), Mr Dominic Meek (Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at NHS Greater Glasgow) and Dr Jane McLaren from the University of Nottingham. 

“It is hard to overestimate what an important breakthrough this could be for landmine blast survivors,” explained Find A Better Way CEO Lou McGrath. “Advances in reconstructive surgical techniques now encourage trauma surgeons to retain as much of a limb as possible instead of quickly amputating above the knee. In many cases, the amount of bone that can be recovered is a limiting factor in how much of a leg or arm can be salvaged. 

“With the developments from this project, we could reach a situation where it is only the limitations of surgical techniques, not the amount of viable tissue remaining, that determines the outcome.”

Professor Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez said, “We have been developing various types of bone-related technology at the University of Glasgow for the previous five years. Thanks to the support of Find a Better Way we can improve and combine these technologies for use in extreme situations where a significant amount of bone is needed urgently.

“With our interdisciplinary team of bioengineers, biologists and surgeons and the financial support of Find a Better Way we expect efficient progress towards the generation of bone, and we look forward to landmine blast survivors of the future having and improved quality of life.”