Living 3D-printed bone replacements to reach VA hospitals as part of VA Ventures' BioBone project
In yet another fascinating example of the growing biofabrication field, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs director of the VA Ventures project, Dr. Beth Ripley, informs they are working on 3D-printed living bone replacements, called BioBone. She expects to see the first BioBone samples reach clinics in the next three to five years, but the VA has other bioprinted organ projects in the pipeline, too. Dr. Ripley gave an example with jaw bones, as in 2020 the VA did "400 mandible tumor resection, craniofacial reconstruction and bone harvesting surgeries for cancer patients and Veterans with chronic facial injuries or infections that could have benefited from 3D printing innovations."
Instead of grafting bones from other parts of the body in 10-hour surgeries, the VA Ventures team partnered with Advanced Solutions Life Sciences to use their BioAssemblyBot to 3D-print structures from the patient's own cells that can be subsequently vascularized into living bones, says Dr. Ripley:
While we are still working on our 3D printed bone tissue recipe, results have been extremely promising. Now, we are focused on how to accelerate the time it takes to grow the bone, ensure vascularization to support successful implantation and optimize our rigorous quality checks so we are able to bring the recipe successfully through the regulatory process.
The goal of the VA Ventures' BioBone project is to ensure that 3D-printing of the artificial bone grafts can be done on site, at the clinics, thus reducing the waiting period and capitalizing on the use of the patient's own blood cells. This would lead to faster turnaround times, improved bone graft success rate and, ultimately, less invasive surgery and recuperation time for Veterans.