Boosting bone regeneration: Additive manufacturing of continuous gradient scaffolds using functional composite materials

by Maria Camara Torres, MERLN Institute for Technology Inspired Regenerative Medicine

Bone fractures, infection related debridement, or tumor resections can lead to large or non-union bone defects, where the normal process of bone regeneration is interrupted and prevent bone self-healing ability. By using scaffolds, tissue engineering aims at providing structural and biological support to regenerate bone. While additive manufacturing (AM) enables to fabricate patient specific 3D scaffolds with optimal mechanical properties and architecture, there is still a need of technologies and materials that allow to fabricate functional scaffolds for regenerating tissues in their complexity.

Within the European project FAST (Functionally graded scaffolds by hybrid manufacturing), new filler-polymer composite materials have been developed. This allowed to fabricate 3D scaffolds with unique properties, such as antibiotic release, high concentration of hydroxyapatite, or graphene based scaffolds, which have shown to offer antimicrobial properties and improved bone tissue formation.

Moreover, a new multimaterial print head has been developed (patent filed), which enables mixing varying ratios of two materials to create continuous gradient composite scaffolds. To study the effect of gradients on the bone regeneration process and potentially mimic the native bone-to-soft tissue interfaces structure, scaffolds with continuous gradients in hydroxyapatite concentration have been fabricated and implanted in a rabbit non-union defect model.

Here we will present the latest in vitro and in vivo biological outcomes of scaffolds fabricated with the novel print head and developed composite materials within the FAST project.



What drives you?
To translate science from a research project to a real life application in the clinics.

Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
To get insight into the new functional materials and cutting edge additive manufacturing technologies that have been developed within our European research project ( for bone tissue regeneration.

What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
Those techniques that enable the fabrication, within a single device, of complex “scaffolds” (gradients in composition or mechanical properties) which closely mimic the complexity of native tissues or have the potential of guiding cells towards the regeneration of complex tissues.

What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
To create new and more effective solutions for regenerative medicine, both for clinical applications and for the establishment of in vitro models of complex tissues.

What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
Complex products and technologies may have a more difficult way towards scaling up and commercialization.

About Maria Camara Torres

María completed her BSc. in Biomedical Engineering at TECNUN School of Engineering- University of Navarra, Spain, and graduated with a MSc. in Biomedical Engineering from Aachen University of Applied Science, Germany. She performed her master thesis at the DWI-Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen, Germany, where she developed her interest in biomaterials and tissue engineering. In 2016 she joined MERLN as a PhD candidate to work on a multinational European project entitled FAST, which aims at developing novel 3D-additive manufactured composite scaffolds for critical-size bone defects regeneration. In her research, she explores the effect of newly developed functional composites on the differentiation of stem cells towards bone cells.

About MERLN Institute for Technology Inspired Regenerative Medicine

MERLN’s focus area is regenerative medicine, which encompasses a variety of therapeutic strategies that aim to augment, repair, replace or regenerate biological tissues. This emerging field involves various disciplines such as stem cell therapy, tissue engineering and bio-based materials.

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