When someone is missing bone in their face due to injury or illness, the current treatment involves transplanting a piece of bone extracted from the leg, leaving a deficit there. Now, however, scientists have succeeded in growing extra bone within sheep’s bodies, that’s preformed to the shape required.
Led by Prof. Antonios Mikos from Texas-based Rice University, a multi-institution team started by removing sections of bone from the mandibles (jawbones) of six sheep, then temporarily filling the resulting gaps with spacers. The scientists also created 3D-printed molds in the shape of the pieces of bone that had been removed.
Called bioreactors, those molds were then filled with either a biocompatible ceramic or crushed bone, and then surgically implanted on the sheeps’ ribs. At the implant sites, the ribs’ periosteum – which is a layer of vascularized connective tissue – was exposed.