TUCSON, Ariz. – A lab in Arizona is hoping to help wounded veterans – through 3D printing.
Arizona’s Orthopedic Research Lab is hoping to use the technology to help military veterans with bone injuries.
Dr. John Szivek, who runs the University of Arizona Orthopaedic Research Lab, said the lab received a $2 million grant from the Department of Defense to create 3D bone printing to help military personnel.
“We could regenerate their bone by 3D printing a scaffold that’s specific to that bone and that patient and then filling it with stem cells from that patient, adult stem cells,” Szivek said. “Surgeons in the military would try to treat military personnel with blast injuries, in particular. Those injuries usually cause massive bone loss and unfortunately, in many cases, they’re currently amputating military personnel who have those types of injuries. But in this way, they could regrow the bone for that person and they could continue their service in the military.”
David Gonzales, the lab’s research specialist, said the technology could eventually also help civilians and cancer patients.
“It’s really exciting to see that we can potentially benefit not only our soldiers who are helping serve our country, but everyone else, as well,” Gonzales said.
But 3D printing technology experts are concerned about the cost of these types of prints.
Adam Jakus, Dimension Inx chief technology officer, ran a 3D printer at Northwestern University, and said although it’s huge that the government is now starting to fund academic research on health 3D printing, the technology has been around for a while.
“What’s coming out of the University of Arizona is really nice to see but I’m not sure, from my perspective, if the technology is anything that new—what really needs to be done is, it’s one thing to regenerate a bone, scientists and engineers have figures that out,” Jakus said. “It’s another thing to make it cost effective and surgically viable…money is everything in healthcare. Unfortunately, even in the military.”
The grant will be funded over a five-year period. Szivek is aiming to test patients near the end of that period to prove they can print these individualized bones to help those suffering from severe limb injuries.