Cerhum is essentially a 3D Printing company with a focus on bone printing. This deserves some explanation.
Can bone be printed?
The answer is Yes! The mineral part precisely, the one composed mainly of Calcium and Phosphate. For example, Hydroxyapatite (HAP) and Tri-Calcium Phosphate (TCP) are naturally produced and shaped by our bone cells. However, these materials can be reproduced in vitro, in a mass production manner by chemical reactions. Even if basic materials are cheap, high purity and bioactive materials is still a Holy Grail. Next to Calcium and Phosphate, other bio ceramics can be used like Bio glass, Zirconia, Alumina, Silicon Nitride, mixes and others.
For which applications?
Bone 3D printing concerns large panel of patients, from babies to elderly people. It helps patients suffering from trauma, congenital disease, cancers, accidents, arthrosis... More and more products are coming on the market or some are in mature development. Let’s mention spine fusion, orthopaedic wedges, bone augmentation in dentistry, facial reconstruction, cranioplasty,... All these applications focus on improving patient treatment and comfort by reducing surgery times, avoid different bone graft (allo, xeno, auto).
Why use 3D printing?
Additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) offers several advantages like free forms or mesh creation. In medical, it means that we can produce personalized objects like tools or implants. It’s also possible to improve tissue integration of an implant through porosities integration and biomimetic structures allowing our cells to colonize it.
Actual synthetic bones have limitations like flexural strength. By consequence, it’s difficult to reconstruct large portions of bone using only bioceramics. That’s the reason why researches are conducted to reinforce these material or make the bone regeneration. Composite materials are more and more spread in scientific reviews mixing advantages of plastic and bioceramics or even metals. Enriching bioceramics scaffolds with stem cells are also a way to stimulate bone growth and heal bone portion that couldn’t be healed with them. Moreover, high performance and biocompatible ceramics like Silicon Nitride are also used to replace metal for its high performance and better tissue integration. Finally, researchers are developing techniques of direct bioprinting. This science is more focus on soft tissue but could lead to severe innovations in medicine in next decades.
So, can all the bones be printed?
Let’s say “More and More”. We see daily more and more applications using bioceramics appearing in medicine. As usual in for medical purposes, it takes time because of validations and approvals. Nevertheless, 3D printing bone knows a hype cycle and has a lot of potential for young and older patient care. Concerning the cost, 3D printing world shows us daily that it becomes and more affordable for care, allowing easy access to large population. So let’s prepare the world for a better care, not only for toys, but for real people.