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Hot ‘nano-chisel’ used to create artificial bones

BROOKLYN, NY (US),February2021 — A holy grail for orthopedic research is a method for not only creating artificial bone tissue that precisely matches the real thing, but does so in such microscopic detail that it includes tiny structures potentially important for stem cell differentiation, which is key to bone regeneration.

Researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute (NYSF) have taken a major step by creating the exact replica of a bone using a system that pairs biothermal imaging with a heated “nano-chisel.” In a study that appears in Advanced Functional Materials, the investigators detail a system allowing them to use a biocompatible material to sculpt the exact structure of the bone tissue, with features smaller than the size of a single protein — a billion times smaller than a meter.

This platform, called bio-thermal scanning probe lithography (bio-tSPL), takes a “photograph” of the bone tissue and then uses the photograph to produce a bona-fide replica of it.

The team, led by Elisa Riedo, Ph.D., professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NYU Tandon, and Giuseppe Maria de Peppo, Ph.D., a senior principal investigator at the NYSF, demonstrated that it is possible to scale up bio-tSPL to produce bone replicas on a size meaningful for biomedical studies and applications at an affordable cost. These bone replicas support the growth of bone cells derived from a patient’s own stem cells, creating the possibility of pioneering new stem cell applications with broad research and therapeutic potential. 

This technology could revolutionize drug discovery and result in the development of better orthopedic implants and devices.


This study replicates with sub-15 nm resolution the bone tissue structure in a biocompatible material, over large areas, by scaling up and adapting to cell studies thermal scanning probe lithography. By introducing cell-culture compatible reusable materials and novel writing strategies, throughput is increased and cost reduced by orders of magnitude. Image courtesy of NYU/NYSF.


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DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202008662