3D printing is having a transformative effect in the manufacturing sphere due to its capability to fabricate models of almost any object. 3D Printing has even been extended into medical applications as scientists have manufactured artificial arteries.
Under the leadership of Professor James Yoo, a team at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is now applying 3D printing towards regenerating damaged cartilage, the soft biomaterial found in your ears, nose, and joints. Existing techniques for cartilage repair include microfracture surgery, and hydrogel, microsphere, and collagen-based nano-scaffolding technologies. The efforts lead by Yoo, however, have several advantages.
The cartilage 3D printer works by combining inkjet printing and a technique known as electrospinning. Electrospinning uses an electric current to spin polymer fiber layers and generate a porous, nanoscale scaffolding. Healthy cartilage cells harvested from rabbit ears and injected using inkjet printing methods are able to grow into and around the scaffolding, stabilize as a solid structure, and create the finished cartilage implant. The product has been successfully tested in mice and has shown many of the signatures of natural cartilage suggesting that the artificial cartilage will be compatible inside the human body. Moreover, the new cartilage material has been found to be more durable than materials produced through previous production methods.
Cartilage 3D printing has the potential to dramatically increase the rate and quality of joint injury recovery and further infuse 3D printing technology into the world of medical science. Due to the potential applications of Yoo’s research towards the recovery of soldiers injured from combat, Yoo’s research has been given significant funding from the US Department of DefensePrinting 3D Cartilage,