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Researchers Construct Implantable Cartilage With 3-D Printer

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Photo of the 3-D cartilage printer. (credit: IOP Publishing)

Photo of the 3-D cartilage printer. (credit: IOP Publishing)

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) — Researchers take a huge stride in the advancement of human medicine by making a 3-D printer that can create implantable cartilage.

According to an Institute of Physics news release, the hybrid printer “produced cartilage constructs with increased mechanical stability compared to those created by an ink jet printer using gel material alone.”

Researchers used a combination of systems that included a traditional ink jet printer and an electrospinning machine to build the cartilage made of synthetic and natural materials. The materials help promote cell growth.

“Electrospinning of polycaprolactone fibers was alternated with inkjet printing of rabbit elastic chondrocytes suspended in a fibrin–collagen hydrogel in order to fabricate a five-layer tissue construct of 1 mm thickness,” the study states. “The chondrocytes survived within the printed hybrid construct with more than 80 percent viability one week after printing.”

Dr. James Yoo, professor at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, believes this can be the future of implantable cartilage.

“This is a proof of concept study and illustrates that a combination of materials and fabrication methods generates durable implantable constructs,” Yoo said in a statement. “Other methods of fabrication, such as robotic systems, are currently being developed to further improve the production of implantable tissue constructs.”

Researchers tested the cartilage by implanting the 3-D printed objects into mice. According to the news release, the 3-D implants “developed the structures and properties that are typical of elastic cartilage” after eight weeks.

The study was published in the Institute of Physics journal Biofabrication.

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