3D printing could help fix damaged cartilage in knees

By 3D bio-printing an ink containing human cells, researchers have now found a way to produce cartilage tissue damaged by injuries or age. Athletes, the elderly and others who suffer from injuries and arthritis can lose cartilage and experience a lot of pain.

Key points

The 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), San Diego,  U.S.

  • The new process presented could lead to precisely printed implants to heal damaged noses, ears and knees in future.

Three-dimensional bio-printing being a disruptive technology

  • Expected to revolutionise tissue engineering and regenerative medicine

Study  by the Wallenberg Wood Science Center in Sweden

  • The team’s interest is in working with plastic surgeons to create cartilage to repair damage from injuries or cancer.
  • Works with the ear and the nose, which are parts of the body that surgeons today have a hard time repairing.

The Process

  • To create a new bio-ink the research team mixed polysaccharides from brown algae and tiny cellulose fibrils from wood or made by bacteria, as well as human chondrocytes, which are cells that build up cartilage.
  • Using this mixture, the researchers were able to print living cells in a specific architecture, such as an ear shape, that maintained its form even after printing.
  • The printed cells also produced cartilage in a laboratory dish.
  • Moving the research from a lab dish to a living system the research team printed tissue samples and implanted them in mice. The cells survived and produced cartilage.
  • Then, to boost the number of cells, which is another hurdle in tissue engineering, the researchers mixed the chondrocytes with human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow.
  • Preliminary data fromin vivo testing over 60 days showed that the combination does indeed encourage chondrocyte and cartilage production.

In future the team one day might be able to fix them with a 3D printer and a bio-ink made out of a patient’s own cells.

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