Hyperelastic bone is a new artificial biomaterial that can be 3D-printed and implanted into the body, where it will eventually be replaced by real bone. It’s flexible and has a shelf-life of around a year, but even better it’s dead easy to use and doesn’t typically cause rejection by the host body.
HB, as it is known, is made from a mixture of hydroxyapatite—the main component of teeth and bones—and a polymer. The mixture can be 3D-printed into any shape, and comes out flexible, letting surgeons squeeze it into gaps between bones for a perfect fit. The resulting lattice works as a scaffold onto which your own bone will grow, eventually replacing the HB. The biggest advantage of a scaffold is that you can fashion bones where none currently exist, replacing bones where the original has been destroyed beyond repair, for example.
The researchers, who detail the new material in a study published in Science Translational Medicine, have had surprise success with the material just by adding human stem cells. The material is porous, which allows blood vessels to grow. The stem cells flourished, filling up the space in the scaffold, and then they started to produce natural bone by themselves.