A new synthetic material called hyperelastic bone, or HB, could be “the next breakthrough” in reconstructive surgery, new research shows. The HB can be implanted under the skin as a scaffold for new bone to grow on, or used to replace lost bone matter altogether. Though it hasn’t been tested in humans yet, early experiments on animals appear to have been successful, with “quite astounding” results, according to the researchers.
The hyperelastic bone, described in a study published today in Science Translational Medicine, is mostly made from a naturally occurring mineral called hydroxyapatite. Hydroxyapatite — a form of calcium found in bone and already used in reconstructive surgeries — is extremely brittle, but the researchers mixed it with a polymer to add flexibility. They then 3D print bone graft from this new, promising material and tested it in various experiments.
“The first time that we actually 3D printed this material, we were very surprised to find that when we squeezed or deformed it, it bounced right back to its original shape,” Ramille Shah, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of materials science at Northwestern University, said during a press call.