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Technology

Researchers 3D-print tissues to heal athletes’ damaged joints

After the first success of their experiment, scientists are now a step closer towards 3D-printing tissues that can
Published March 29, 2019

After the first success of their experiment, scientists are now a step closer towards 3D-printing tissues that can help heal bone and cartilage damaged in sports-related injuries to knees, ankles and elbows.

Researchers from Rice University and the University of Maryland successfully engineered scaffolds that replicate the physical characteristics of osteochondral tissue – the hard bone beneath a compressible layer of cartilage that appears as the smooth surface on the ends of long bones.

When these bones are injured, from small cracks to pieces that break off, they can be really painful and can even stop athletes’ careers, also having the ability to lead to disabling arthritis, explained Science Daily.

Scientists find way to create more breathable 3D-printed human tissues

Because of the gradient nature of cartilage-into-bone and its porosity, it is difficult for it to be reproduced in lab, hence the team used 3D-printing to make the artificial tissues, which they believe will be ultimately be suitable material for implantation.

“Athletes are disproportionately affected by these injuries, but they can affect everybody. I think this will be a powerful tool to help people with common sports injuries,” said Sean Bittner, lead author of the paper published in Acta Biomaterialia.

The researchers mimicked the tissue that slowly turns from cartilage at the surface to bone underneath. The team printed a scaffold with custom mixtures of a polymer for the former and a ceramic for the latter with embedded pores that would allow the patient’s own cells and blood vessels to infiltrate the implant, eventually allowing it to become part of the natural bone and cartilage, explained Rice University.

“For the most part, the composition will be the same from patient to patient,” Bittner said. “There’s porosity included so vasculature can grow in from the native bone. We don’t have to fabricate the blood vessels ourselves.”

For the future, the scientists aim to figuring out how to print an osteochondral implant that perfectly fits the patient and allows the porous implant to grow into and knit with the bone and cartilage.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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