3D printed bone project underway in Glasgow

The much-celebrated Find A Better Way project at the University of Glasgow, which hopes to provide synthetic bone for treating landmine blast survivors, is now underway and setting targets for its first six months of research.

Since its formal start at the beginning of the year the project has hired its first postdoctoral researcher and is currently advertising for a second. A project manager is also expected to be in place within the coming weeks.

Also nearing completion is procurement for the specialized 3D printer that will be central to the project. Project leader Professor Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez (pictured right) is hoping to have a type of 3D printer known as a ‘bioprinter’ on site by mid-March. The bioprinter will add some key benefits to the project, including the possibility to print stem cells together with supporting material structures.

‘A bioprinter will be perfect for making objects out of medical-grade biodegradable plastic. This is what we will be using for our synthetic bone scaffolds,’ explains Professor Salmeron-Sanchez.

‘But a bioprinter would have another advantage that would make the synthetic bone treatments much more stable. One of the avenues we want to explore with the bioprinter is to print layers of stem cells directly inside the biodegradable scaffolds.

‘Instead of seeding stem cells after fabricating scaffolds, our ambition is to print the supportive scaffolding and stem cells in alternate layers. The bioprinter will open new routes towards off-the-shelf bone.’

Besides the new researchers and equipment, the project is also finalizing its agreements with the various other institutions that will cooperate with the research, These include the University of Nottingham, the University of West Scotland, the NHS, and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS). Everything is expected to be in place for the project’s first strategic board meeting on 8 March, when targets and goals for the next six months will be set.

‘Working with Find A Better Way has been a tremendous pleasure so far,’ explained Professor Salmeron-Sanchez. ‘Sir Bobby spoke with such passion about the damage caused by landmines at the funding agreement signing ceremony in December, it was impossible not to be moved. We are thrilled to be part of the Find A Better Way family.’