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Knackered Knees

3D imaging and printing advances bring promise of personalised knee replacements

23 August 2021

Knackered Knees

Humans endure a variety of problems as a result of walking upright – clear proof we were not intelligently designed. Aside from back problems and possible birth issues, damaged knees are a drawback of life on two feet. In fact, it’s estimated nearly half of us will suffer knee osteoarthritis at some point. Replacing worn out knees with artificial ones is a last resort. Another option is to implant a supportive plate into the existing joint before it’s kaput. But, outcomes of such surgery are often disappointing. The problem is, knee shapes vary but the plates don’t and a good fit isn’t guaranteed. Advances in 3D imaging of joints and in 3D printing, however, may soon enable production of personalised plates – like the one illustrated. Tailored to fit a patient precisely, the plates will hopefully provide a more comfortable and flexible way to overcome this evolutionary shortcoming than was previously possible.

Written by Ruth Williams

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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