This is hair-standing technology. Can you Imagine having surgery and during the procedure, technicians scan an area of your bones that have missing or depleted bone tissue? And then — this is the part that tightened the follicles on my lower arms — during the same procedure, a physician 3D prints bone tissue directly in the cavity where it grafts with your own cells to create native bone?

If you’re an X-Men fan, you’re forgiven if this technology sounds like a bit like the Wolverine origin story. However, according to scientists at the University of New South Wales Sydney’s School of Chemistry, they have developed a ceramic-based ink that can repair damaged or missing bone tissue.

The UNSW team described how they created the ink in a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials in January 2021. According to Dr. Iman Roohani, there are other 3D-printing technologies that build bone-mimicking structures, but do so outside the patient’s body. The existing technologies print the structures in high-temperature furnaces with toxic chemicals. The USNW process works at room temperatures directly and builds the bone directly and safely inside the patient’s body.

The USNW chemists call this process “ceramic omnidirectional bioprinting in cell-suspensions” (COBICS). The technology answers a significant need. An article for a UNSW news publication quotes Roohani as saying, “It could be used in clinical applications where there is a large demand for in situ repair of bone defects such as those caused by trauma, cancer, or where a big chunk of tissue is resected.”

Next steps for the USNW Sydney include animal experiments to determine whether the living cells will grow after printing in existing bone tissue.

About 20 years ago, I had freeze-dried bone grafts as part of a dental procedure to build up bone tissue to support implants. If the UNSW chemists can bring their 3D bone-printing technology forward fast enough, I’ll sign up.