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Research Snapshot: Growing 3D bone in the lab

Research Snapshot: Growing 3D bone in the lab

May 21, 2024 at 10:44am

In this new series, we take an up-close look at FIU research through a collection of awe-inspiring images spotlighting our scientists' fieldwork and latest discoveries. 


Bone cells live in bone tissue in the body.

The cells here (shown as green dots) are carrying out their bone-building duties. But they are doing it outside the body — inside a 3D printable device, called a bioreactor, created by FIU researchers.

Over the years, biomedical engineer Anamika Prasad has been refining the device with the help of her students, most recently master’s student Paula Gustin. The result: A design with cylinder-shaped hollows that mimics the unique environment that bone tissue requires. And, most important, supports long-term survivability of samples. In fact, new published research shows samples can survive in the device for up to 28 days. This can be a gamechanger for scientists who need to study cellular changes over longer periods of time to discover new drugs and therapeutics.

It can also help advance bone engineering research — including bone reconstruction to replace large chunks of bone lost to cancer, infections or injury — as well as cartilage research and growing new cartilage tissue.

Prasad also plans to use this device as a part of her other research, including an ongoing 3D bone reconstruction project with Dr. Juan Pretell, Chief of Musculoskeletal Oncology Surgery at Baptist Health. With support from the Casey DeSantis Florida Cancer Innovation Fund through the Florida Department of Health, they will design personalized 3D implants for children with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.