Antonios Mikos, Alexander Tatara, and Rice colleagues are using a 3D printed mold, attached to a rib, to grow live bones to repair craniofacial injuries. Stem cells and blood vessels from the rib infiltrate scaffold material and replace it with natural, custom-fit bone.
Current reconstruction methods use a patient’s own bone graft tissues, harvested from the lower leg, hip and shoulder.
According to Mikos: “We chose to use ribs because they’re easily accessed and a rich source of stem cells and vessels, which infiltrate the scaffold and grow into new bone tissue that matches the patient.” New bone can potentially be grown on multiple ribs, simultaneously.
The technology has only been tested on animals, but shows promise, with custom geometry and a reduced risk of rejection.