Ever wonder how surgeons hone their skills or practice new and difficult procedures? Plastic bone models have played an increasingly important role in educating medical students and patients, training orthopedic surgeons and testing medical devices.
Pacific Research Laboratories, Inc. of Vashon Island, Washington, is a leading producer of artificial bones, Sawbones®, designed to simulate the bone architecture as well as the bone’s physical properties. These training models allow demonstration and practice of different procedures that can enhance medical research and treatment. Therefore, having true-to-life models are crucial.
During the last two decades, Pacific Research Laboratories has made a variety of bone structures synthetically — by mimicking the architecture and strength of natural bone. Various aspects of bone shape, size and its complex internal structure make it difficult to manufacture artificial models. Products currently on the market have a hollow medullary canal with closed cell urethane foam interiors at the ends, not the open celled cancellous (the porous honeycomb structure inside bones) interiors found at ends of real bones. One of greatest challenges in simulating real bone is the modeling of cancellous bone.
Continuing to be a leader in the artificial bone market, the company has been working to develop these cancellous bone models.
In July 2000, WTC funded a project teaming Pacific Research with Dr. Susmita Bose of Washington State University’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering to develop the first artificial open-celled cancellous bone model. WTC’s participation helped Pacific Research Laboratories speed up development and lower the company’s financial risk in ultimately bringing a beneficial new product to market.
Using Sawbones provided by Pacific Research Laboratories, Dr. Bose and her colleagues have been experimenting with various materials and processes, trying to achieve the natural strength and architecture of cancellous bone. Materials used to make these bone models are polyurethane-based polymers, ceramic powders, and organic solvents. In the last year and a half, the team of researchers has developed some models attaining the proper architecture and is working to perfect the strength properties of real bone.
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