We’ve shown you 3D printed bone models, 3D printed human veins, and a printer that sprays new skin cells on burn victims – but we have to say this latest advancement is the most impressive use for 3d printing yet. Researchers at Washington State University have successfully 3D printed human bones that are suitable for use in orthopedic and dental procedures, as well as for delivering medicine for patients with osteoporosis. Watch a video of the incredible 3D printer in action after the jump!

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This incredible feat is the result of a partnership between chemistry, materials science, biology, and manufacturing researchers at WSU. The team created a 3D printer from scratch that is capable of printing a scaffolding made of calcium phosphate, which can be used to grow bone cells in practically any shape. Once implanted — they’ve only tested this in small animals so far — the scaffolding dissolves, leaving only the new bone matter behind with no apparent ill effects.

Though the researchers haven’t been able to make a bone that is capable of bearing a lot of weight — like a tibia or femur — they’ve been able to successfully increase the strength of the bone by adding silicon and zinc to the calcium phosphate scaffolding. Once the scaffolding is complete it is submerged in a medium with immature human bone cells, and within a week it supports a new network of bone. The doctors are able to create a bone from the information gathered from any CT scan, making it possible to even create replicas of bones with defects for patients with abnormalities in their bone structure. This technology could revolutionize the way that surgeries like hip replacements are carried out. Susmita Bose, the co-author of the research and a professor in WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering envisions that in ten to twenty years, physicians and surgeons will be able to custom order bones for patients by sending in computer data from a CT scan.

+ Washington State University