Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have merged two systems to create a method for 3D printing cartilage. They created a hybrid printer that combines the low-cost fabrication techniques of an electrospinning machine and a traditional ink jet printer.
Scientists were able to build a structure made from natural and synthetic materials that ensured it was strong and promted cell growth. In their study, flexible mats of electrospun synthetic polymer were combined with a solution of cartilage cells from a rabbit ear deposited using the printer. The cartilage constructs maintained their functional characteristics in the laboratory and a real-life system. They could eventually be implanted into injured patients to help re-grow cartilage in specific areas, such as the joints.
The researchers state that they could be clinically applied by using an MRI scan of a body part as a blueprint for creating a matching construct. The material for each patient’s construct would be carefully selected to make sure it allowed the implant to withstand mechanical forces and encouraged new cartilage to fill the defect.