Scientists in Ireland have discovered a way to “print” new bones, which could help eliminate the need for bone grafts and possibly make new joints for hip and knee replacements.

The Irish Mirror reports that researchers at the Science Foundation Ireland-funded AMBER materials science center at Dublin’s Trinity College have developed a new method of making bone material using 3D bioprinting technology to construct cartilage templates in the shape of the missing bones. The made up bone and stem cells are impacted under the skin, where  over time it matures into fully functioning replacement bone with its own blood vessels.

The breakthrough could offer hope for those with complex bone defects or people who have suffered catastrophic injuries.

Professor Daniel Kelly, who headed the team, said:“This is new approach to tissue and organ engineering and we’re very excited.

“3D bioprinting is a rapidly expanding area in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

“While the technology has already been used to engineer relatively simple tissues such as skin, blood vessels and cartilage, engineering more complex and vascularised solid organs, such as bone, is well beyond the capabilities of currently available bioprinting technologies.”

He added: “Our research offers real hope in the future for patients with complex bone trauma or large defects following removal of a tumour.

“In addition, this bioprinting approach could also be used in the development of the next generation of biological implants for knee and hip replacements.

“Our next stage of this process is to aim to treat large bone defects and then integrate the technology into a novel strategy to bioprint new knees.”