Promising biomaterial to build better bones via 3-D Printing and wearables for cancer treatment
Again, TextileFuture is presenting two further examples of what 3D (additive) printing can do as a disruptive game changer in another field than in the textile sector. This time it is in the medical sector: An US Northwestern University research team has developed a 3-D printable ink that produces a synthetic bone implant that rapidly induces bone regeneration and growth, and Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) will demonstrate how using wearable technology and smartphones can improve cancer treatment at a White House event on Oct. 3, 2016
The hyperelastic “bone” material, whose shape can be easily customized, one day could be especially useful for the treatment of bone defects in children.
Bone implantation surgery is never an easy process, but it is particularly painful and complicated for children. With both adults and children, often times bone is harvested from elsewhere in the body to replace the missing bone, which can lead to other complications and pain. Metallic implants are sometimes used, but this is not a permanent fix for growing children.
“Adults have more options when it comes to implants,” said Ramille N. Shah, who led the research. “Pediatric patients do not. If you give them a permanent implant, you have to do more surgeries in the future as they grow. They might face years of difficulty.”
Shah and her team aim to change the nature of bone implants, and they particularly want to help pediatric patients. Shah is an assistant professor of materials science and engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and of surgery in the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The new study, evaluating the material with human stem cells and within animal models, was published this week by the journal Science Translational Medicine. Adam E. Jakus, a postdoctoral fellow in Shah’s laboratory, is the paper’s first author.
Shah’s 3-D printed biomaterial is a mix of hydroxyapatite (a calcium mineral found naturally in human bone) and a biocompatible, biodegradable polymer that is used in many medical applications, including sutures. Shah’s hyperelastic “bone” material shows great promise in in vivo animal models; this success lies in the printed structure’s unique properties. The material is majority hydroxyapatite, yet it is hyperelastic, robust and porous at the nano, micro and macro levels.
“Porosity is huge when it comes to tissue regeneration, because you want cells and blood vessels to infiltrate the scaffold,” Shah said. “Our 3-D structure has different levels of porosity that is advantageous for its physical and biological properties.”
While hydroxyapatite has been proven to induce bone regeneration, it is also notoriously tricky to work with. Clinical products that use hydroxyapatite or other calcium phosphate ceramics are hard and brittle. To compensate for that, previous researchers created structures composed mostly of polymers, but this shields the activity of the bioceramic. Shah’s bone biomaterial, however, is 90 percent by weight hydroxyapatite and just 10 percent by weight polymer, and it still maintains its elasticity because of the way its structure is designed and printed. The high concentration of hydroxyapatite creates an environment that induces rapid bone regeneration.
“Cells can sense the hydroxyapatite and respond to its bioactivity,” Shah said. “When you put stem cells on our scaffolds, they turn into bone cells and start to up-regulate their expression of bone-specific genes. This is in the absence of any other osteo-inducing substances. It’s just the interaction between the cells and the material itself.”
That’s not to say that other substances couldn’t be combined into the ink. Because the 3-D printing process is performed at room temperature, Shah’s team was able to incorporate other elements, such as antibiotics, into the ink.
“We can incorporate antibiotics to reduce the possibility of infection after surgery,” Shah said. “We also can combine the ink with different types of growth factors, if needed, to further enhance regeneration. It’s really a multi-functional material.”
One of the biggest advantages, however, is that the end product can be customized to the patient. In traditional bone transplant surgeries, the bone—after it’s taken from another part of the body—has to be shaped and moulded to exactly fit the area where it is needed. Using Shah’s synthetic material, physicians would be able to scan the patient’s body and 3-D print a personalized product. Alternatively, due to its mechanical properties, the biomaterial also can be easily trimmed and cut to size and shape during a procedure. Not only is this faster, but also less painful compared to using autograft material.
Shah imagines that hospitals may one day have 3-D printers, where customized implants can be printed while the patient waits.
“The turnaround time for an implant that’s specialized for a customer could be within 24 hours,” Shah said. “That could change the world of craniofacial and orthopaedic surgery, and, I hope, will improve patient outcomes.”
University of Southern California to show how wearable technology can improve cancer treatment
Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) will demonstrate how using wearable technology and smartphones can improve cancer treatment at a White House event on Oct. 3, 2016
“South by South Lawn: A White House Festival of Ideas, Art and Action” (SXSL) is a gathering inspired by South by Southwest, the annual gathering of film, interactive media and conferences in Texas. It brings together creators, innovators and organizers who work to improve the lives of their fellow Americans and people around the world.
The USC project will be one of the participants in the Cancer Moonshot exhibit championed by Vice President Joe Biden. Researchers aim to provide doctors with real-time patient data from wearable technology and patient-reported experiences so that physicians can base their treatment decisions on objective measures rather than just subjective and episodic observations. The project is called “Analytical Technologies to Objectively Measure Human Performance (ATOM-HP).”
Jorge Nieva, ATOM-HP’s co-lead researcher and an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, said this approach will create a safety net for patients who have the hardest time with cancer treatments.
“Using technology to observe the experiences of our cancer patients while they are at home humanizes the impact of the therapy by making it visible in analytic form to the doctor,” Nieva said. “At a glance, we can see the days spent in bed, the impact of treatment on lifestyle and, in some cases, see those moments when we wish we had intervened before things got worse.”
Current cancer treatment is based on episodic encounters. Even during chemotherapy, patients generally see their physician for maybe eight to 10 minutes every three weeks, said Peter Kuhn, ATOM-HP’s co-lead researcher and a professor of medicine, biomedical engineering, and aerospace and mechanical engineering at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
“The more than 30000 minutes between visits are a missed opportunity,” Kuhn said. “Technology can be leveraged to fill this gap and provide a comprehensive picture. The collected data can lead to better treatment decisions, better survival rates, and better understanding between physician and patient.”
ATOM-HP is a convergent science initiative bringing together collaborators from the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Keck School of Medicine, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC Dornsife and the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy.
“As a university, we are making headway on multiple fronts to address the cancer crisis,” USC Provost Michael Quick said. “We have faculty, researchers and students across disciplines who are working collaboratively to fast track the detection of cancer and, ultimately, to find a cure for this disease. We strongly support this type of convergent science at USC, and we know we will have an impact on this widespread and devastating disease.”
The real-time data ATOM-HP provides likely will fast-track cancer research.
“One of the great barriers to solving the complicated cancer puzzle is a lack of timely information,” Kuhn said. “Analyses of cancer data usually become available years after the information was first collected. Having access to real-time data will be invaluable for scientists.”
The SXSL festival is a collaborative effort with the American Film Institute, National Parks Foundation, President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, and South by Southwest.
The ATOM-HP project is a joint effort between the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Strategic Initiatives and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Rapid Response Technology Office. USC researchers aim to improve the lives of cancer patients undergoing treatment and the survival chances of warfighters going on missions. Both patients and warfighters suffer from treatment- or duty-induced fatigue that impairs their ability to survive or perform. While the sources of the fatigue might be different, the measurement approaches might be similar.
USC is building new bridges across the university that will increase the understanding of cancer so that better outcomes can be achieved for all patients. The private university has been a pioneering leader in cancer research for decades. It is home to one of the oldest and largest cancer surveillance programs in the world, which is administered by the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. In addition, the new USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience is dedicated to fast-tracking detection and cures for diseases through quantitative sciences from math to computer science.