NYUCD recently began testing a three-dimensional bone tissue scaffold printer that could substantially reduce bone regeneration time in the oral cavity and elsewhere in the body. Bone generated from the scaffolds could be used to shore up alveolar (jaw) bone to support dental implants, as well as to repair cleft palates, fill in missing pieces of skull, and repair other large and small defects.
The printer, known as a robotic deposition, or Robocaster, system, converts three-dimensional information, from CT scans, MRIs, or other indicators of missing or defective areas of bone, into custom 3-D printed tissue scaffolds with an unprecedented level of precision. Because the structural elements of the scaffolds are similar in size to ingrowing bone structure (~200µm), the bone is expected to grow faster and more accurately than bone generated from other random orientation types of tissue scaffolds.
The scaffolds have been made from hydroxyapatite ceramics, which are permanent, while the newest materials are composites of hydroxyapatite and tricalcium phosphate, which can remodel with bone and eventually be removed from the bone structure, leaving only repaired bone. Unlike metal plates that are commonly used to replace missing sections of skull and jaw bone, the scaffolds disappear completely from the body once the bone has regenerated, and do not require surgical removal once the bone is in place. This is an advantage in applications, such as cleft palate in children, where permanent scaffolds cannot be used because the bone must be able to change shape as the child grows.
NYUCD is believed to be the only dental school testing the printer for bone regeneration.
A six-month pilot study to regenerate missing sections of skull bone in vitro is being led by Dr. John Ricci, Associate Professor of Biomaterials & Biomimetics, Dr. Mitchell Pines, Professor of Biomaterials & Biomimetics, and Ms. Elizabeth Clark, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biomaterials & Biomimetics, in collaboration with Ms. Michelle Gurfinkel, Class of 2011, Dr. Jim Smay at Oklahoma State University, and his graduate student, Ms. Cornelia Vasiliu.