Our goal is to improve the quality of life of patients who require bone grafts pertaining to load-bearing bones. Because of the load-bearing component, these grafts must be attuned to the microstructure of the individual and must be able to attain long-term structural integrity. In particular, we are looking to improve upon the available synthetic grafts by incorporated the use of high-resolution imaging techniques, such as MRI and CT scanners, to capture the fine detail of a given individual’s microstructure. These scans are then converted into digital files for 3D-printing to create a personalized bone graft for the patient in need. Our research is also investigating the proper biomaterials to use to maximize the effectiveness of the graft. We have successfully been able to engraft and cultivate stem cells on a graft made out of the biodegradable material, polycaprolactone (PCL). This proves the graft’s viability to be integrated into the patient’s body and allows us to move forward with optimizing other design parameters. Future directions will look to integrate vasculature into the model and investigate the viability of other biomaterials found in actual bone. The end goal is to create a synthetic bone graft that is customizable to the individual patient’s needs while mimicking the structure and chemical composition of the actual bone as closely as possible.
Having the honor of presenting our research at the SPIE Medical Imaging Conference this past winter (February 2017) was a humbling and inspiring experience. It gave me a glimpse into the world of academia and a deep respect for all the other scholars who were pursuing their research with such passion and devotion. As a conference on the Novel Applications of 3D Printing, it also made me realize how rapidly the quality of medical care has improved as a result of the constant development of innovative technologies.