Chemically coated, ceramic implants successfully guided the regrowth of missing bone in lab animals while “steadily dissolving,” researchers report.

Surgeons and scientists at NYU School of Medicine and NYU College of Dentistry say their implanted scaffolds were naturally absorbed by the test animals’ bodies as new bone gradually replaced the devices. The research team describes its progress in a series of reports, the latest of which appears in the Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine online July 25.

Modeled after the bone pieces they are meant to help replace, the implants were assembled onsite using 3D robotic printing, a technology that uses a fine-point print head to push out a gel-like ink material. The material is printed onto a platform, and the printer repeats the process until 2D layers stack up into a 3D object, which is then superheated into its final ceramic form. Available for more than a decade, the technology has only of late been applied in medicine to print out replacement ears, skin, and heart valves.

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