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Southampton Researchers Combine 3D Printing, Stem Cells In Pioneering Hip Replacement Technique

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Hampshire resident Meryl Richards has become the first patient to undergo a groundbreaking hip replacement operation. The technique used by doctors at Southampton General Hospital involves the combination of a 3D printed implant and a bone stem cell graft. It has been developed by scientists at the University of Southampton as part of a research programme to encourage bone formation through the use of patient skeletal stem cells.

The 3D printed implant is made from titanium and corresponds exactly to the patient´s specifications and measurements. This was made possible through the use of a CT scan and computer-aided design and manufacturing technology. The graft has been inserted behind the implant and between the pelvis. The graft, which acts as a filler for the bone loss, contains bone marrow cells from the patient. This will encourage bone growth in the area surrounding the implant.

According to Southampton doctors, this technique is a game-changer. Professor Richard Oreffo, leader of the research project at the University of Southampton, said that fractures and bone loss resulting from trauma or disease constituted a serious problem, both from a clinical and socio-economic point of view. This technique makes it possible to grow bone at the injury site and use an implant that fits the patient perfectly. It holds tremendous potential for improving recovery and the patient´s quality of life, Oreffo added.

Richards has had problems with her hip since 1977, when she was injured in a traffic accident. She had undergone six operations before the procedure at Southampton General Hospital and is hoping that the new implant has finally taken care of her hip troubles.