Find a Better Way, founded by Sir Bobby Charlton, was involved in funding related to the University of Glasgow last year. This partnership came about with an aim of being able to develop limbs printed by 3D machines. As of this month, that aim has come into fruition, at least in part, as synthetic bones for a dog have been completed.
Meet Eva the Dog
Eva was involved in a car accident which caused a break to one of her front legs. Since then, Eva hasn’t managed to heal the leg because of consistent infections which require the removal of bone tissue. Because of this, Eva had a 2-cm gap in her foreleg and was soon facing amputation if something wasn’t done.
Fortunately, a veterinarian named William Marshall found a potential answer in the form of a treatment based on an as of yet untested technique developed at the University of Glasgow. Glasgow scientists were able to use a protein called BMP-2 to encourage bone growth. The problem was that they had yet to trial the method on humans for a few more years.
The vet took a chance on a procedure that might help and implanted a combination of BMP-2, non-living bone chips, polyethyl acrylate as a binder, and bone marrow from Eva.
Of course, as this was the first time to use this technique, there was no precedence on how or even if it would work. Surprisingly, however, seven weeks after the implant Eva had made a full recovery.
Due to the project with Eva, the team at Glasgow had proven potential for the procedure to work. It is now being used as a learning exercise that will aid and educate the team for future 3D printed implants.
Sir Bobby Charlton remarked about the procedure, “When I signed the funding agreement for this project just six months ago I was not expecting there to be any results from this technology for years. Eva is a beautiful dog and I’m delighted she will now have a normal life thanks to the work Find a Better Way has funded at the University of Glasgow. I’m even more thrilled to think about what promise this technique holds for landmine blast survivors, and the rest of humanity, in the future.”
The actual treatment that may eventually be available for humans involves creating a 3D printed bone scaffold of a medical-grade. This is then covered with stem cells, which in turn, generate bone at a high rate, aided by the BMP-2/polyethyl acrylate mixture. Once the cells and BMP-2 grow the bone tissue, the scaffold will biodegrade to leave only the new grown bone in place, just where it should be.
With nearly five years until the process can be used on humans, the team has plenty of time to ensure everything is down to an art by then. And in the meantime, Eva has a new leg that she would not have had otherwise.