Doctors usually deal with broken bones by enveloping the affected limbs in a cast, letting the bone heal on its own. In more extreme cases, patients could need surgery and metal implants or screws to help repair the damaged bones.
This could change for the better in the future. Namely, Australian scientists have developed 3D printed ceramic implants that help broken limbs heal faster and eventually turn into real bone, according to an article by New Scientist. The breakthrough was made by Hala Zreiqat, professor and researcher at the University of Sydney’s biomedical engineering department, and her team. The implant, which the team has been working on for several years, initially joins the broken bits and over time fuses with the bones to replace broken parts.
After first testing it on rabbits, Zreiqat and her colleagues began a study using sheep. The experiment showed the eight sheep involved in the testing were able to walk immediately after having the 3D implants inserted. However, they still needed to wear a cast during the first month after surgery to stabilize their legs. Within one year, as many as 88% of the fractures in sheep were healed and their implants blended into real bones, with 25% of the animals completing the healing process after three months.
The new method still hasn’t been tested on people, but with the latest results on animals, it is likely similar methods could be used to heal humans in the future, as well.