World’s first 3D printed vertebra implanted in 12-year-old boy


By Ryan Whitwam

Doctors at Peking University in China have accomplished something never before seen in medicine. They have successfully replaced a section of vertebra with a 3D printed implant. Doctors say this implant should incorporate itself better with the existing bone and shorten recovery time. Don’t get too excited about all the bones you’re going to print at home–this implant is made from powdered titanium, which you can’t really feed into your MakerBot.

Titanium powder is often used in orthopedic implants, but this is the first time a 3D printer has been used to make a solid 3D object to the exact specifications of a patient. The patient in this case is a 12 year-old boy who was suffering from a malignant tumor on his upper spine. A section of the bone had to be removed to stop the cancer’s spread, but doctors opted to try this new method rather than use a traditional implant, which relies on screws and cement to stay in place.


  1. @OP – World’s first 3D printed vertebra implanted

    The title is misleading as this a titanium implant and not a “vertebra”.

    It is a metal repair to a vertebra.

    3D printing of body parts is more along these lines:-

    Solid organs with lots of blood vessels, such as kidneys or livers, are harder to grow than hollow ones like bladders. But Atala’s group—which is working on 22 organs and tissues, including ears—recently made a functioning piece of human liver. One tool they use is similar to an ink-jet printer; it “prints” different types of cells and the organ scaffold one layer at a time.

    • Still you have to admit that it’s still a pretty interesting concept for replacing a damaged bone, 1 in this case which is far more difficult and more important junction of the body then most. I wonder how well the boy will be in 20 years.

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