In Belgium, the start-up company Texere Biotech has recently taken possession of a globally unique, fully automated system. The company uses femoral heads (i.e. the top end of the human thigh bone) and processes them into cuboid implants known as “bone allografts”. Six Stericlean robots supplied by Stäubli handle this bone replacement tissue under cleanroom conditions.
Allografts (i.e. non-endogenous implants) are in high demand, because natural bone is the best material for bone transplants. Its microporosity ensures that it engrafts well. At the same time, the patient is spared the painful removal of autologous bone.
Precisely because the material is so well suited for grafting, it is in short supply. This is partly because bone banks have so far been preparing the hip bones entirely manually – a time-consuming process with low output. For this reason, Dr. Denis Dufrane, who himself spent many years working in a bone bank, founded Texere Biotech with the goal of automating the production of bone allografts.
Stericlean robots make the impossible possible
This project was on the drawing board in more than few years in the making, and it has now reached completion. The plant has the capacity to process 5,000 femoral heads a year. Because these are meticulously measured and optimally segmented, each produces an average of six blocks.