Researchers from Johns Hopkins University are exploring the use of biocompatible scaffolding materials and three-dimensional printing to improve the prognoses of patients who need facial reconstruction.

The research was recently presented at the annual meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) in New Orleans.

For patients who have experienced injury or disease leading to the damage or loss of bone in their face, the standard method of treatment is to use a large bone graft or metal implant to replace their damaged bone, ORS officials said in a statement announcing the research's presentation. However, according to the society, these treatment options are unlikely to result in something closely resembling the original bone structure.

According to study co-author Joshua Temple, the team's custom 3D printer allows them to convert a CT scan of the bone of interest into a porous, biodegradable scaffold that serves as a template for new bone formation. The team then fills the pores of the scaffold with fat-derived stem cells and demonstrates that these cells can form new bone as well as blood vessel networks, both of which are critical for functional bone grafts.

The next step for this team is to work on enhancing the scaffold's potential to induce bone to form. Their hope is to develop a treatment option that would allow patients to retain more of their original appearance.

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