3D printed titanium heel

Personalised medicine and clinical trials

One important ethical issue in assessing any new medical treatment is to consider whether the treatment is a safe and effective means of treating a given condition.

In the case of the use of 3D printing materials that will go into human bodies, there will be aspects of the treatment that are familiar to medical specialists (for example the techniques used in hip joint replacement or liver transplantation), but the new treatments may use new materials that need to be assessed for safety and stability.

Use of 3D printing to replace damaged or defective bone can aim to merely fill in a structural gap and mechanical function left by damaged bone (as is the case in using ceramic or stainless steel hip joints), or it can involve developing a structure on which to print living bone cells that will then continue to grow bone.

In the technically simpler case of developing new materials (not live cells) to replace damaged or defective bone, for example, assessment of bio-compatibility (the capacity for the material to be placed in the human body without causing irritation, abnormal cell development or unwanted degradation or breaking down in the body) will first be determined in vitro (in a test-tube or vial, not in a living creature) and will normally then be assessed through clinical trials on animals like mice or rats, before being tested on humans.

  • What do you think about this type of innovative surgical intervention?

  • Are you surprised at how far bio-printing has advanced?

  • What is different about regulations for clinical trials for bioprinting to other types of clinical trials?

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This article is from the free online course:

Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts

University of Wollongong